Supporting the College Transition

Photo by  Nathan Dumlao  on  Unsplash

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

The college admissions scandal has certainly peaked the nation’s interest and it has definitely peaked mine, as my son just recently went through the entire search, application, and response process. It’s a huge challenge and we all want to support our kids through it. The very fact that some parents feel the need to cheat their kids out of the application process leads us to conclude that we are not putting our full faith in our kids.

And then, once we are through the process - whatever it was like, it seems we assume our kids are simply ready for college. But there is a missing piece to that puzzle. We are seeing record numbers of kids dropping out and an increase in anxiety and depression in college students.

Photo by  Alexis Brown  on  Unsplash

Photo by Alexis Brown on Unsplash

In addition to the idea of sending them off to live on their own and worrying about the big decisions like whether or not they will be safe, if they will be homesick, if they will make the most of the opportunity, we also need to consider if they are ready to manage their own time, get their work done, and figure out the social scene.

Sarah Cody and I were lucky enough to sit down with Marc Lehman, a marriage and family therapist and Co-Founder of Dorm Room Counseling. Marc he talked to us about preparing kids and supporting them through this huge transition.

Back to School - A Transition for Mom Too

I was out for a run with a friend of mine the other day, and as we passed the trees still full of green leaves, we still knew fall was imminent because of the change in our routines. We began commiserating about the reintroduction of bedtimes, homework and information nights as the new school year begins. The summer had been such a lovely respite from all that. We had just spent the last week of summer vacation helping to prepare our children for the back-to-school frenzy. We made sure they had their school supplies, got them to bed earlier, and provided general comfort to them as they went back, certain they had anxieties of their own. We were so focused on their needs, with the understanding that this is a major point of transition for them, but we lost sight of our own needs and the fact that this is a huge transition for us as well. And we weren’t ready for it.

I can see the long-ago  scene in my mind like a rerun of a favorite tv show episode. My then 3-year old son, in overalls and a striped shirt with shiny blue Stride Rite sneakers, looked back at me from his new preschool classroom. I went to hang up his jacket and backpack on his assigned hook and he turned around to find me and said, “Mom?”

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“I’m right here,” I assured him with a bright smile, ready to be there all day to comfort him in this new place.

“I thought I was coming alone today,” he said, confused.

So that was it. He was ready for preschool and let me know it in no uncertain terms. I saw this would be an easy goodbye and hugged and kissed him.  As I turned for one last look, he gave me only a quick backwards wave as he turned to go find something to play with. Wow, that was easy. For him! I went to the car, bravely, and then collapsed into a heap of sobs. And from that day on my oldest son has pretty much always loved school.

Well, as of today, I guess I’ve had almost 18 years to prepare for this fall, but nonetheless, as my now senior boy dances around to what he calls “morning pump-up music,” while getting ready for school and driving his siblings to school, I sit there, not sure what to do. Sure, I have work to go to, my mornings are different now. My kids simply don’t need me in the same way they once did. It’s clear that I need to change my own perspective and figure out how they do need me. It’s certainly not to hang their jackets and backpacks on their assigned hooks. Those days are long gone.


I know a parent is never done parenting. I know this because I call my parents quite regularly for advice, support, comfort, companionship. I know my son will need my guidance as college applications become real, as he faces tough decisions, and endures heartbreak. But I also know he’s ready for this, his independence. And while I am very proud and excited for him, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t also sad.