U-M Counseling and Psychological Services

Sending a child off to the University of Michigan is also a new stage of life for YOU, the parent. Whether this is your first child or your last child to leave home, this time requires an adjustment for you as well as for your student. It is a time of "letting go." Your role as a parent is to understand and accept that the changes are part of the process of them becoming adults.

This transition, while exciting, can at times be a trying experience for everyone. As parents you may have fears and concerns that are quite normal. You may fear that the cultural and family values you have worked hard to instill in your student may be lost or diluted. You may fear "losing" the relationship you have had with your student as they become increasingly autonomous. You may wonder if they really can take care of themselves and have enough knowledge and will be responsible when faced with making decisions about alcohol, drugs, or sex.  

You might also wonder how your student will make sense of the new experiences they encounter and how can they deal with them in a productive, positive way? We all make sense of the world through the lens of our life experiences, our family values and history, and our cultural and ethnic identity. All the learning they have received from you up to now is a part of who they are; it is a part of what they bring to any new situation.

Of course, they will need time to adjust to the new situation, need time for "trial and error", for exploration and experimentation. You may notice new clothes, music, ideas or beliefs. You may notice that they are forging a new identity, questioning and challenging old values and beliefs, keeping many, yet taking on new ones. Much in the same way they might try on new clothes, looking for the best fit, they may "try on" some new ideas or perspectives. As parents, you may be in the best position to help them through this period of adjustment and change. 

What can you do to help?


Be available to talk and touch base regularly.
Foster their growing sense of autonomy and offer guidance.


Get to know their reactions to their new world. Their reactions are not the same as yours. Your student is not you and may have different needs, likes, skills and desires than you have.
Be alert to signs of unresolved stress in your student. Experiencing some stress when entering a new situation is quite normal. You can reassure your student of this.


How openly do you and your student discuss feelings, concerns, and differences in opinions?

Be Open

Expect that your student will make many changes during their academic study. The average college student changes academic majors four different times. It is common that many university students are not able to graduate within four years.
There may be some conflict, but the relationship you have created over the past 17-18 years are very much a part of them and will always be there.


When you problem-solve with them, encourage your student to take an active and equal role in the problem-solving process. It would be best not to immediately tell them how to resolve a problem. Instead, ask them "What ideas do you have? What do you think will work best for this situation?" Teaching them how to problem-solve will contribute to their own sense of competence and self-reliance that will be important skills to have as they go through life.


Your student will most likely face new challenges. Be familiar with campus resources and ensure your student is setting realistic expectations.

If, however, the stress persists over time and you believe that it is interfering with their daily lives, encourage them to come talk to a professional counselor in a safe, confidential environment here at the Counseling and Psychological Services office.  We are here to help!