Helping Your Daughter Successfully Navigate Her First Year of College

You have walked alongside your daughter for many important events in her life. Now the day has arrived. She is embarking on her first year of college. You may be filled with many mixed emotions and wondering, “how can I support her in navigating her first year?”

Talk About It: Before your daughter goes to college, allow for open communication and connection. Hear your daughter’s expectations for her first year. If your daughter is going to live at school, whether near or far, find out how much contact she plans on having with the family. Will she visit every weekend, or only during holidays and breaks? You may also want to talk about phone calls. Who will call who–and how frequently? Emails and texting may be less intrusive and more comfortable ways for you and your daughter to communicate. Another question to discuss: How involved will you be with supporting your daughter’s academic progress? Communicating about these issues ahead of time can clarify everyone’s expectations and decrease the chances for miscommunication.

Supporting Your Daughter: There are several ways to do this. One is simple verbal reassurance. Others are action oriented–like attending Parent Orientation or the Parent Weekend. This is a great chance to get more familiar with your daughter’s school and the resources available to her on campus.

Be Aware of How She Is Adjusting: College can be an exciting time of developing identity, thoughts, opinions, relationships, skills, goals & dreams. Your daughter will learning greater independence, and making many choices on her own. Your daughter’s first year can be an amazing growth experience. As thrilling as they may be, all these changes can also be stressful. For some college students, it is their first time away from home. Students may confront social, academic, and emotional issues that they’ve never had to deal with before. Be sure to check in from time to time about how things are going for her.

According to the American College Health Association, about 15% of college students have been diagnosed with depression. According to the Association for University & College Counseling Center Directors, about one in 10 college students seek treatment from campus counseling centers. If you notice your daughter feeling frequently overwhelmed; sleeping all day; isolating herself from peers; having difficulties concentrating; feeling irritable, sad, or hopeless almost every day, encourage her to seek help. Counseling services are available on most college campuses and are usually free to all enrolled students.

Your Changing Relationship: Your relationship with your daughter is an evolving process. To help support her development as an adult, allow her to practice her independence and learn to connect with her as an adult. You will find there will be times she will still need your support. So learn to give her space and be there to support her when she asks for help.

Managing the Empty Nest: Now that your daughter is spending more time outside of the home, it may be time for you to rediscover hobbies, interests and reconnect with yourself and significant others or friends. Enjoy!

Resources: There are some great books and websites for parents & college bound young adults. Click here to review my list of favorites.


PLEASE NOTE: Nothing in what you find here should be construed as medical advice pertinent to any individual. As is true with all written materials, and especially information found on the internet, you must be the judge of what appears valid and useful for yourself. Please take up any questions you might have regarding the content of this web site with your psychotherapist or physician.

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