Health and Counseling Services

Division of Student Life

Information for Parents

Things to remember as your child transitions to college

The college years are an important time of transition for students. These years are also a time of transition for parents! It is natural for parents and students alike to have hopes for and fears about the college experience. As a parent, acceptance of your own perspective will help your child feel more comfortable with his/her thoughts and feelings, too. This is a time when you will renegotiate your relationship as your adolescent transitions to adulthood. Students will navigate many challenges, such as being away from home, experiencing the joys and difficulties of living with others, continuing to develop their identity, becoming more independent, making new friends, and having romantic relationships—all in the context of a challenging and rigorous academic environment.

What can I do to help my child from a distance?

Be there.

Be available to your child. Although this is a time when young people develop their independence, it is important for them to know that you are there if and when they need you. You may find that your child wants a different level of contact than what you would prefer. Also, your child’s need for your support may change significantly over time. One week you may get constant calls and emails, the next week you may not hear a thing. This is normal, and while it can be unsettling for parents, it is a sign that your child is exploring different aspects of developing independence.

Offer support while encouraging responsibility

It can be hard to know what kind of support to give from a distance. When children are in distress, parents often have the urge to rush to their side as when there was a skinned knee at the playground. Some parents feel that children need to be tough and start facing life as adults. Whatever your impulse, accept it and take time to think about what would be best for your child at this point. Generally, it helps to provide a mix of support as well as recognition that your student is entering a new phase of life and is learning how to accept responsibility as an independent person. That said, being independent could also entail asking for, and receiving, help when needed.

Encourage your child to get help if needed

There are many on-campus resources available to Reed students. Academic Support Services, academic advisors, the Office of the Dean of Student Services, Residence Life, and the Health and Counseling Center can all assist with a variety of concerns.

Acknowledge that life can be difficult

The college years can be difficult as well as fun and rewarding. Academic stress, relationship issues, homesickness, and making mistakes are all a part of the being in college and becoming an adult. It is important for your child to know that you understand that hard times are a part of life and that you want to help when times are tough. Explain that you know that your child will get through difficult times and that you will be there to provide support no matter how he/she is feeling.

Be open and honest about your expectations

It is helpful for students to know what the expectations are, particularly regarding financial matters. Will they be expected to pay for books and fees? Will they need to earn their own spending money? Being specific before your child leaves for college will help to avoid misunderstandings later.

Understanding the Reed experience

Your child has chosen to attend an academically rigorous institution that focuses intensely on study. For some students, adapting to this new challenge is easy. For most, it can be difficult. Students who excelled without much effort in high school and easily topped their classes may now find themselves struggling to get Cs and Bs. For parents, knowing and anticipating that expectations may be different can help your child adapt to this new circumstance.

Finally, don’t forget to take care of yourself

Remember that you may feel a variety of different emotions in relation to your child’s college career: ambivalence, concern, anxiety, hopefulness, and excitement, just to name a few. Acknowledging and accepting your own feelings is a great way to model healthy adult behavior for your child and also helps you to maintain an even keel. Seek support when you need it, from family, friends, and others. Many parents use the time when their child attends college as a transition to focus on other interests that they have but may not have had time to indulge while they raised children.