child at post-secondary

The Parental Transition: Surviving Your Child’s First Year at Post-Secondary

By Nipissing University
  • Accept that some feelings of ambivalence are normal during this parental transition.
  • Be honest about your thoughts and feelings and talk with your son or daughter and your partner about them.
  • Give some time for everyone to adjust.
  • As students decide what fits best with them personally, they may:
    • Add and Drop Courses
    • Change majors
    • Change Universities
    • Travel abroad or in Canada
  • Don’t take it personally if your son/daughter doesn’t seem to “need” you anymore.  They are simply exerting their independence.
  • Be realistic and clear about financial matters.
  • Be realistic about academic achievement and grades.
  • Expect change as your student begins this new phase of life.
  • Don’t be overly concerned by a change in clothing or hairstyle.  Change in appearance is one way students may begin to express their individuality.  However, if there is an extreme change in appearance and behaviour, this may be a sign that you should have a discussion with your student to assess if something more is going on.
  • Remember that there is much more to a university education than lectures, readings, assignments, and exams.
  • Remember that there are other expenses in addition to tuition and books.
  • Additionally, seek out information (books or credible websites) on the first-year experience.
  • Discover or re-discover interests or hobbies.  This is a great opportunity for you to have new life experiences as well as your son/daughter.


  • Post-secondary students are no longer teens, but not quite adults.
  • They are risk-takers – it is the nature of who they are and an important part of their development.
  • Risk-taking leads to:
    • Confidence
    • Ability to assess future risks more accurately
    • Resilience
    • Better coping strategies

Red Flags: When You Should Become More Involved

  • When tearful conversations outnumber others.
  • Unexplained weight loss or overly excessive weight gain.
  • Frequent illness.
  • Failure to complete assignments.
  • Significant money problems.
  • Talk of hopelessness or lack of purpose.
  • Abrupt mood changes and major changes in behaviour or appearance.

Lastly, if you notice any of these red flags, have your student contact and utilize the university resources put in place to help them: counseling, residence dons, etc. It’s important during this parental transition.