Social / Emotional Milestone

How to Send Your Kid Away

Okay, we know you’re not actually sending them away. But leaving is a natural part of growing up, right? How’s a parent supposed to plan for the transition? And most importantly, do you need to tap their phone?

They’re off: Now what? How will you know about your child’s life now that they don’t live in your house? (Or maybe they do still live in your house, but they want more independence anyway.) How much do you want to know?

Some things to consider:

1

You can still be—gently—involved in your college student’s academic well-being. If you have a college student, they might well still need some academic support, especially freshman year. It’s their job to seek that support now, but they might need a little nudge to look for it. You can point them toward where to get help. (If your child has a disability, there are accommodations available to them by law.) Before they leave for school, talk with them about how they’ll choose their courses, and signals that they might need extra help—like if they’re struggling to complete assignments on time or find themselves getting repeated low grades on papers and exams. (Many college students see their grades drop from high school, especially freshman year. But it’s something to keep an eye on, especially if it happens consistently.)

2

Plan ahead for their financial independence. If you’re still supporting your child in any way financially—including things like keeping them on your health insurance or a family cell phone plan—talk to them ahead of time about how they’ll transition off that support. Regardless of your family’s particular circumstances and choices, open communication with your adult-ish kid about any changes to their current arrangement will help them make those transitions smoothly.

3

If they’re still living in your house, maybe they should start paying rent. Okay, we know this is controversial. It won’t feel right for every family—and of course that’s fine. Living at home can be a great way for young people to save money as they start making their way in the world. (Plus they might be helping you out by taking care of younger siblings or other family members.) But paying rent is also a big part of growing up. If you’re able to, you might consider charging a reasonable rent they can afford based on what they’re earning, and putting their payments directly into savings for them. When they’re ready to move out, they’ll have a little cushion ready to go that came out of their own pocket.

4

Tap their phones. We’re kidding. Totally kidding. Boundaries are great! But if you’re having a hard time getting any information whatsoever about what their life is like, consider setting up a regular family Zoom call (if they’re far away), or a monthly activity you still enjoy doing together (if they’re nearby). Sometimes just having something on the calendar can help keep those relationships tight and the conversation lines open.