by Anna Sturino
Director of Operations
Graduating from high school and heading into post secondary education evokes a jumble of emotions in young adults: excitement, terror, happiness, uncertainty. As a parent, you’ve likely witnessed them all in your teen. Maybe you’re feeling the same way as you figure out how best to support your son or daughter as they take this important step toward adulthood. This transition is likely to be a big change for everyone involved, whether your teen is staying home or moving away for their post secondary education.
- Starting your prep early by establishing routines when your teen transitions into high school can help a great deal when they transition to post secondary life. Work with your teen to build and maintain the basics, such as regular sleep routines, a healthy diet and exercise regimen. Teach your teen the importance of setting priorities and establishing strong study habits, like finding a distraction free space for homework and test preparation. You’ll find that your teen will continue these habits during their post secondary years
- Teach your teen practical skills, the practical part of the transition is usually one of the biggest hurdles. Many teens have never done their own laundry, they place it in a laundry basket and within a few days find their clothes clean and in their room. Simple tasks like paying bills, washing dishes, shopping for groceries and preparing and eating healthy meals, can be overwhelming for your teen. Teaching and practising these skills – from cooking a simple meal to learning how to do the laundry – well before the move, will prepare your teen for managing their new independence.
- Teach and encourage your teen to establish solid study habits that will profit them in their post secondary years. Habits like keeping good class notes, organizing the material in order to make it easier to study later on and learning to refresh all the learned information before an exam. Encourage them to check their first year’s syllabus and start reading ahead
- Choose the right post secondary institution: would your teen do better on a large or small campus? What’s the campus culture like? Is it arts- or athletic-oriented? These are all questions your teen should consider when making their choice. Ensure your teen chooses the post secondary institution that is the right fit for them and leave the final decision up to your teen. Teens need parents who will encourage them and support them. By allowing your teen to make the decision, they’ll work harder to make the best of it.
- Make sure your teen has all the necessary legal and medical paperwork they’ll need. Make sure they have all current emergency contact names and numbers in their phone.
- If possible, make a trip and book a tour of your teen’s new campus. It might be nice to visit with your entire family and share in their experience.
- Talk to your teen about the academic changes they can expect: professors and instructors will not “hold their hand,” class sizes can be large and some classes will have teaching assistants, who can be great resources to your teen.
- Encourage your teen to take part in orientation activities and events for their faculty department, the institution and their residence. This will help them become comfortable on campus, meet new people and begin friendships.
- Figure out what your teen will need to make their daily life run smoothly – things like a good backpack, special supplies, transportation, a bike or public transit pass. All of these items will help make the transition easier.
- Keep the lines of communication open with your teen: stay involved and be interested without smothering your son or daughter. It’s a difficult balance but worth the effort. Email them if they are away from home and plan a time to connect with your teen over the phone or through Skype. Ensure to connect more frequently at a time when your teen may need an extra dose of encouragement, like during exam time.
Letting go can be hard. As a parent, for the first 18 years or so, you have been deeply involved in your child’s daily life. As they move on to this next phase, expect your role to change. This can be hard but it’s important to give your teen room to grow, learn, and change. Most importantly, through all the changes, the emotional highs and lows, the thrill and anxiety of moving on to this next stage in their life, remember to stay connected with your teen, offer them support, and love and listen to their stories, complaints and triumphs, and celebrate this new stage for all of you.