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University of Connecticut Division of Student Affairs

Parent & Family Resources

Common Transition Issues - Families

James Berardinucci '13 (CLAS), right, eats with his parents at the Food Court in the Student Union during Family Late Night activities on Sept. 23, 2011

When young adults go away to college, or live at home and commute, both the student and family members will go through various transitions. While no two families may have exactly the same experiences when a son or daughter begins college, there are common threads found throughout students’ and families’ stories. Below you can find some general information about transitions that families face. Hang in there! You’re not alone. In addition to this site, the Parents Association can be a wonderful resource to learn more about your role with the University.


  • Be patient. Adjusting to a new, demanding schedule presents considerable time management challenges for students.
  • Avoid making your student feel guilty for not contacting you as much as you would like. Instead, ask them when a good time might be to connect once or twice a week. Planning communication can help family members avoid feelings of animosity and resentment toward one another.
  • Your student still needs your love and concern, but the expressions of such feelings may change.
  • Ask open-ended questions about their classes and decisions they’ve made.
  • Let them know you’re there if they need you.
  • Have some type of plan in place for reaching your student in case of emergency.

Redefining Roles

  • Your relationship with your student will work best if it is based on a mutual respect rather than control (Counseling & Mental Health Services (CMHS) Staff, 2010). Transitioning from a parent-child relationship to an adult-adult relationship will take time and patience and must be fostered in a supportive and encouraging environment.
  • As an emerging adult, your student is trying to navigate through new roles and responsibilities. It is their job to steer their ship, not yours. This does not mean your advice and guidance will not be needed. It simply means that you are letting them take the lead.
  • Be honest. Your student may frequently hear that the college years are the "best years of your life". However, adults understand that life is full of ups and downs, and it is critical for you to normalize your student’s experiences rather than provide the "best years" advice (CMHS Staff, 2009). Do your student a favor by having honest, adult conversations about their successes and failures.

Returning Home (CMHS Staff, 2010)

  • Let your student set their own schedule when they return home. Remember, at school your student is doing this all day, every day.
  • Your student may have left home as a “child,” but they are returning as an “emerging adult.” All of the old house rules may not still apply, so it is important to discuss new expectations.
  • Your student will be happy to see you during breaks, but they will also be excited to see their friends. Don’t take it personally when they are in and out and all about…they’ve got a lot to catch up on!
  • Schedule family dinners and/or offer to have your student invite their friends over to hang out at your house for an evening.
  • Remember that your student deserves private space to visit with their friends or significant other.

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act

  • As a parent or legal guardian, it is important for you to become familiar with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Please visit UConn’s FERPA website as it is dedicated to helping families understand both parent and student rights pertaining to educational records. You may also want to visit the U.S. Department of Education's FERPA website for further information.

Effectively Supporting Your Student's Autonomy

  • Offer support through reminding your child of things they have to do, but then allow their independence by expecting them to do such tasks on their own such as scheduling doctor’s appointments, paying bills, and touching base with their academic advisor.
  • Encourage your student to use campus resources and support services.
  • Ask about your students’ academic interests and passions, and support their decisions to pursue related goals (CMHS Staff, 2009).
  • Remember that developmental growth requires making mistakes. A significant part of college is making choices (sometimes wrong ones) and then recovering from them.
  • Learn the art of flexibility. Your student is going to college and will need your encouragement and support throughout their academic career. It is important for them to know that they will always have someone in their corner at the end of the day. While they will meet many important adult figures who will provide influence and direction throughout their time at UConn, no one will ever replace you.

Problems vs. Crises

While we nearly always suggest that parents and families allow students to learn from their mistakes by facing the consequences of their own actions and decisions, we also recognize that there is a distinct difference between problems and crises. If you feel that your student is in danger or needs help with a serious problem, please do not hesitate to contact Counseling and Mental Health Services or the Dean of Students Office for support.

Information on this page has been provided by UConn's Counseling and Mental Health Services and adapted from Don’t Tell Me What to Do, Just Send Money by H. E. Johnson & C. Schelhas-Miller.

Departments in the Division of Student Affairs