Sending your teen off to college or university

Updated April 6, 2023

When Shakespeare wrote, “Parting is such sweet sorrow,” he might have been referring to the feelings parents experience sending their child off to college or university for the first time.

Although you are proud of your child and want them to make a success of the transition from childhood to adulthood, it’s hard to wave goodbye without feeling sad about this rite of passage. After all, your baby is growing up and leaving the nest.

It’s important to set feelings aside and help make your child’s move from the protected family circle to the uncertain world of post-secondary learning as smooth as possible. There are a number of ways to ease the transition for your son or daughter.


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Life skills and life on campus

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Before your child heads off for life on campus, be sure they are equipped with some basic skills that will allow them to cope well without parental assistance. Randye Holder, a parenting writer for The New York Times, suggests the following:

Laundry time

Teach your child to do laundry and insist that they wash and dry personal sheets and towels during the summer prior to leaving home. Prepare to advise on separating whites and darks and how to know which items to put in the drier and which to hang dry (clothing labels are made just for this purpose!). A supplementary lesson in ironing won’t go amiss, either.

Money in the bank

Ensure that your child understands the basics of banking, including opening a chequing account, writing a cheque, using an ATM, banking online and balancing an account. This will also allow them to see that money doesn’t grow on trees, and perhaps it will help them use it more wisely.

Transit trips

Teach your child to navigate the city on public transit. It’s unlikely that they will have a car on hand, and understanding how to read a transit map and decipher the fares will be invaluable. If you live in a city now, take away the car keys for a week or two in the summer and allow your child to get accustomed to using buses, subways or streetcars.

Chef school

Give your child some basic cooking lessons and let them plan and cook a meal or two for the family. Although many students are part of a meal plan for the first year away from home, residence halls generally have kitchens, and it may be fun for them to cook for their friends occasionally and demonstrate their prowess. It will certainly win them brownie points with potential dates – everyone likes a sweetheart who can feed them.

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Summer session before college

This may be the last summer that your family is together without major obligations. Once students begin post-secondary careers, summers may be filled with jobs and internships and they may even work away from home. Take advantage with:


Ask your child to set aside some time to spend exclusively with you, your spouse and siblings. Make these times full of fun and good memories, not shopping for back-to-school items.

Family vacation

If time and the budget allow, take advantage of this family summer and go on a trip together to someplace that interests all of you. It needn’t be a big, expensive trip; a weekend at the beach can be just as enjoyable as a jaunt to Europe.

Staying level-headed

Often, a child leaving home isn’t ready or able to admit that this parting is difficult or sad. Instead, they try to create distance by making you into the bad guy that is easy to leave behind. If you are the target of more outbursts or anger than usual, don’t take it personally and don’t be dismayed. It’s all part of the separation process and is just a temporary state of being. As Queen Elizabeth II is quoted as saying, “Keep Calm and Carry On!”

Taking leave

Women student in dormitory studying

Driving your child to college or university and saying goodbye won’t be easy, but it’s important to signal to your son or daughter that you have faith in their ability to cope and that everything will turn out for the best.

Follow the leader

Remember that this is the beginning of your child’s new life and they should be the one to decide how it unfolds. On moving day, take your cues from them; don’t micromanage.

Suspend judgment

Your child’s roommate may look like a slob or may have already taken the bed near the window. Don’t make a fuss and don’t cast aspersions on the roommate’s character within your child’s hearing. Allow them to make independent judgments about this and all aspects of the new environment; that is what adulthood means.

Don’t linger or hover

Don’t be too emotional or too cold when it comes time to say goodbye. Your child wants to know that you care but doesn’t want you sobbing. Give a strong hug and tell your child how much you’ll miss them. Then, take your leave and resist the urge to text an hour later. Give your child space to acclimate to the new people and surroundings all on their own. It’s one of the reasons they’ve gone away to school!

Make sure they are protected

Women university student holding books and a beverage

Get tenant insurance

Finally, students moving away from home for the first time may need tenant insurance. It’s important to double-check with your insurance provider.

Keep in mind the reality of student life, including the parties. To an insurance provider, student housing may be riskier than single-family homes because of their high turnover rates. There are liability issues to consider as well as the need to protect possessions from theft. When sending your son or daughter off to college or university, take the steps you believe will make this a smooth transition.

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