It’s college-preparation season, and many families are worried about sending their sons or daughters to college for a myriad of reasons—not the least of which is fearing that he or she will make some bad decisions. If you are that parent or guardian, rest assured, says La Roche College psychology professor Janet Gates, Ph.D. This phase is “about spending time with your child and explaining expectations about college,” not adding angst to an already stressful time.

For many parents, Gates noted, making a decision about college is a time of filling out mass amounts of papers, visiting colleges, and purchasing items for school. However, beyond the stacks of mail and the trips to the doctor, the transition from home to college is just as important as the college experience itself. As Gates explains, “the relationship changes radically between parent and child. Children develop a sense of emotional autonomy, which is important in order for them to become healthy adults. Teenage years bring a lot of tension and friction because they want to be on their own.”

One great way to help a child transition from home to college life and independence is to encourage him or her to live in on-campus residence halls. The residence hall is a great environment for students and their development into autonomy, Gates said.

“Living in the residence hall is a wonderful transition from living under the protection of mom and dad,” she said.

In addition, she noted that research suggests living on campus helps to keep the student from feeling isolated. Many students can become detached from the school environment if they commute and may not be as involved with college activities. Parents and students should keep in mind that taking part in activities can be key to a positive college experience, especially because 75 percent of a student’s time at college is spent outside the classroom.

Gates believes that La Roche offers the type of environment to help the progression from childhood to adulthood. The college offers many features that focus on helping students assimilate into a new lifestyle, such as the opportunity to meet new people with different attitudes and values; a freshman transition program called the La Roche Experience; the commitment of faculty members to students; developing personal responsibility; managing eating habits; and more.

Watching a child become more independent can be difficult for parents, Gates noted. And, although it is important to maintain a strong relationship with your child in college, it is also necessary to let go as much as possible when he or she is away at school. Sending a child away from home may be one of the hardest decisions that you’ll have to make as a parent, Gates said, but “the bond between parents and children last a lifetime, and you want your children to have solid roots with wings to fly on their own.”

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