Expert Tips for Parents Dropping Kids off at College Freshman Year

Expert Tips for Parents Dropping Kids off at College Freshman Year

The Emotional Rollercoaster of Sending Your Teen Off to College

Tears may flow when parents drop their teen off at college.

There’s nothing quite like experiencing the mix of emotions that flood your system when it’s time to drop your teenager off at college. The heart-wrenching moment of watching them leave the nest amplifies the anticipation and anxiety of not knowing what lies ahead for them. While it’s natural for parents to feel this way, it’s essential to remember that young adults need space to develop independence and autonomy from their parents and grandparents.

Jenene Case Pease, a clinical assistant professor in the department of human development and family science at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, offers some valuable tips on how parents can navigate this monumental life transition.[^1^]

First and foremost, it’s crucial to acknowledge and communicate the complex mix of emotions that arise when sending your child off to college. Pease emphasizes the importance of being honest with yourself and your young adult about the joy, sadness, and other feelings that accompany this transition. Opening up about these emotions creates an atmosphere of trust and understanding, allowing for better communication throughout this period of change.

Adjusting Expectations

When it comes to maintaining a strong connection with your child, it’s essential to adjust your expectations regarding communication and time spent together. Recognizing how and when your young adult is most receptive to communication will prevent misunderstandings and allow for more meaningful interactions. Remember, their priorities will naturally shift as they adapt to their new responsibilities and environment.

Additionally, it’s crucial to respect their boundaries. As young adults strive for independence, they will establish their own limits and preferences. By accepting and honoring these boundaries, you foster an environment of trust and provide them with the freedom to explore their new chapter.

A Positive Approach

Parents may find themselves worried about their young adult’s social and academic pursuits. However, Pease advises adopting a more watchful waiting and positive approach. Rather than passing judgment or imposing your own solutions, it is advisable to show genuine enthusiasm for their new perspectives and interests. By being curious about their chosen field of study and giving them the space to evaluate what’s working for them, parents can foster confidence and independence in their young adults.

Modeling Respectful Communication

During this transition, parents have an opportunity to model the type of respectful communication they hope to receive in return. Trust that you have equipped your child with the necessary skills to manage the demands of college life. Pease encourages parents to trust the foundation they have established and the values they have instilled in their young adults. This trust serves as a strong foundation for healthy and open communication throughout the college experience.


Sending your teen off to college may be an emotional rollercoaster, but it is also a time of growth and new beginnings. It’s natural for parents to feel a mix of emotions, but by adjusting expectations, respecting boundaries, and maintaining a positive attitude, parents can support their young adults in developing independence and finding their own path.

Remember, this transition represents an opportunity to strengthen the parent-child relationship through respectful communication. Embrace this change, trust in your child’s ability to navigate this new phase, and watch them thrive.

More information:

The Child Mind Institute offers valuable tips on raising confident, independent children.


[^1^] Virginia Tech, news release, Aug. 18, 2023

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