Ask Dr. Joy: How to Help Your Children Make the College Transition

By WEEK Reporter

May 11, 2011 Updated May 11, 2011 at 8:39 PM CDT

At this time of the year we commonly discuss graduation from high school, but a greater majority transition from grade to grade. Let's focus on a unique transition… college years.

What is unique about the transition within the college years?

1. Rarely discussed in literature, but is similar to high school transition phases
2. Minimal involvement with parents compared to high school years
3. More personal decisions that can be life changing

Tell us a little about the transitions from year to year.

1. Freshmen year –Transition to independence marked with times of home sickness, changes in relationships and loss of the past.
• New set of expectations with higher academic requirements
• Decreased supervision
• Attachments tend to be related to college community (dorm, classes)
• Family role to encourage and support leaving / breaking away process
2. Sophomore Year – this is a time where the student really focuses seriously on college
• This is also the year that is characteristic of unexplained feelings of apathy alienation and sadness.
• Hometown honeys fall by the wayside, and high school peer friendships start to diminish
• Family relationships have shifted accommodating to the physical absence of the student

3. Junior Year- increased seriousness about major and the future. Realistic assessment of the their place in the adult world.
• Personal relationships become more selective and serious as social time becomes more precious.
• Permanent relationships become more intact
4. Senior Year- time to look back on college years with nostalgia
• Realistic planning takes place and is the primary focus
• Time of sadness, anxiety with anticipated transition from college
• Tend to seek more time with friends more important in this phase
• Focus on the future

How can parents adapt to changes with their college student?

• Be encouraging and supportive
• Allow for mistakes and learning opportunities
• Go on with your life so your student will adapt to their own independence without guilt
• Keep contact via phone, cell, text, but remember that you are no longer the primary relationship at their stage of life. Don’t personalize the change, but see it as growth.
• Remember that your student relationship will soon change with you to one of adult to adult.

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