The Emotional Checklist

You’ll find plenty of packing and to do checklists online (although I think the ones we have here at Summer Before College are the best...). What I wish I had had when my daughter was preparing for college was an emotional checklist to get me through the summer. The emotional aspects of leaving for college are part of the process.

The Biggest Piece of Advice

Don’t let anxiety over the upcoming transition ruin your summer!

Is it a huge change? Yes. Will you worry about your freshman? Absolutely. Will your house be different without your child? Yep. But at the end of the day, raising an independent, mature human being is what it is all about.

We’ve done our job and are sending them out into the world. Try to keep that in mind when you have those pangs of sadness (and there will be plenty!).


Recognize that your freshman will likely already be pulling away from you in some ways (if they had not already).

If we think the transition is daunting to us as a parent, think about it from your child’s perspective. Away from home, living on your own, making all new friends, the challenges of college coursework, pressures of partying, the list goes on and on. It is a lot for an 18-year old.

Don’t be surprised if your child tests the house rules during this last summer.

Don’t take it personally

You might find that your child isn’t spending as much time with you as you would like. It is likely that your freshman will want to spend as much time as possible with high school friends as the realization sinks in that these friends, who have been their mainstay since grade school, are not going to be down the street anymore.

  • Try to consider it a statement on the security your child feels with your relationship: “Mom and Dad will always be there for me, but my pals from high school may not so I need to cram in as much time as possible with them.”
  • Your child will have to figure out the transition from high school to college friends on her own but there are plenty of great resources out there to help.
  • Avoid guilt trips! I admit to doing this when my daughter opted to go to a night before move-in day bonfire with her friends rather than spend the last night with us at home.


If you are especially anxious or sad about your child moving away to college, try your very best not to transmit those negative feelings to your freshman.

This is another embarrassing admission for me. I was absolutely DREADING my daughter moving away, even though I was super happy for her to be doing her thing and attending her college of choice. I *thought* I was doing a good job keeping those feelings to myself when she told me that she wasn’t really stressed about going to college “but was worried about how I would handle it.” Yikes! After that I really tried to get it together for her sake.

At the same time, remember, it is okay to be sad about your kid leaving. Check out this great article on the topic.

feeling sad when child goest to college
Art by Lizzy Stewart


Don’t ignore the effect of the departure on younger siblings. There are emotional aspects of leaving for college involved for them as well. With non-stop focus from high school graduation leading right through the summer preparing for move-in day, it can be easy for the ones who are still at home to feel left out.