Letting Go: The College Transition Part One

Letting Go: College Transition 101 for Parents [Part One]

Preparing for Adulthood

Words by Mrs. Debbie Pitcairn, Director of College Counseling

This time in the lives of our seniors and their families is exciting.

And scary.

The process of becoming an adult begins before seniors graduate and continues for several years. Adolescents must separate from the family and form their own identities in order to successfully mature into adults – which is our goal. This process takes time and can be turbulent, but it is helpful to know what to expect and to understand what is happening.

Seniors are experiencing fear and excitement simultaneously; they cannot wait to grow up and be independent, yet, they feel terror and grief at the coming “loss” of family and the security and familiarity of home. The result is an emotional rollercoaster that seniors and parents ride together throughout the spring and summer.

I am reminded of the vivid “swimming-pool” metaphor that Lisa Damour in her book, Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood, describes: maturing students will swim confidently and independently in the pool of life until they need support and then cling to the pool wall to rest and recover. When ready, they forcefully push off the wall back into the open waters of life.

And, boy, that push-off can be painful!

I am sure many of us recognize this pattern in our growing children.

Our job is to prepare them for that pool. Encourage the development of independence, self-reliance and responsibility.


Our job is to prepare them for that pool. Encourage the development of independence, self-reliance and responsibility.


Academy at the Lakes requires seniors to take a Personal Finance class that teaches them about essential financial skills such as banking, bill paying, debt, savings, checking accounts, debit and credit cards, and budgeting to make sure they have an opportunity to put some of these skills to use before they leave for college.

Parents can continue these important life skills at home by teaching children how to do simple tasks that will come in handy when they are on their own.

Tasks teenagers can do at home to prepare for adulthood


  • Do their own laundry
  • Make a meal plan and go grocery shopping
  • Learn how to cook simple (affordable) dishes
  • Create a spending budget
  • Make doctor and dental appointments
  • Learn to sew on a button, change a tire, basic first aid, basic home repair skills



By practicing and learning these tasks, your teenager will gain confidence in their ability to handle things on their own.


Letting Go is a conversational meeting our Director of College Counseling Mrs. Debbie Pitcairn has with parents of seniors. In this three-part blog series, she covers many of the topics included in that meeting. Information for this series came from several resources. For a full list of recommended reading, see this list.

Part One: Preparing for Adulthood
Part Two: Facing New Challenges
Part Three: Managing Academic Expectations and Handling an Empty Nest

Learn more about our College Counseling program here.