Don’t worry if you’re feeling a little sad about your student leaving home for the first time – it’s perfectly normal, assures Dr. Bill Pfohl, a professor of psychology at Western Kentucky University. (And yes, it will get easier!) If it hasn’t started already, you and your children will experience normal separation pangs.
As parents, you go from having a lot of control over your children’s lives to having less control. That doesn’t mean you’re no longer necessary in their lives.

If you’ve been involved in your child’s college decision-making progress, you know what they’ve experienced in making the first big decision of their lives. “You can help them by encouraging problem solving,” Dr. Pfohl suggests. Dr. Pfohl also recommends you be open and honest about your concerns and worries, while encouraging your child to do the same.

Once your student is settled at school, both the telephone and e-mail are great ways to stay in touch. Dr Pfohl suggests that care packages are another great way of keeping in touch and letting your student know you’re thinking about him or her. And he adds care packages make any student very popular in the dorm.

Many colleges and universities offer some type of orientation program – after acceptance in the spring, during the summer or a few days before classes start. Check freshman orientation packets for information.

For example, Georgetown University has a new student orientation program for freshmen and transfer students and their families. The program begins four days before fall semester classes start. On the first day, students move into the dorms (with the help of their parents) and then attend a prepared orientation, while parents have a special orientation with the dean of students followed by a reception. Parents can stay for two days and then are asked to leave.

Many schools now offer a program that allows students to visit the campus once they are admitted or wait-listed. Some programs allow students to tour their dorms (some can even spend a night in the dorm) and register for classes, while parents attend courses designed to answer their many questions. If you have questions about orientation or any programs available to parents, contact the college’s student affairs or housing office.