Your child has filled out all his applications, written his essays and passed his entrance exams to get into college. But is he really ready for what’s next?

“College is one of the most important changes in a teenager’s life,” says Paul Glaser, MD, PhD, a Washington University child psychiatrist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “For many kids, their feelings range from happiness at being out of the house to homesickness and even depression.”

This change can be hard—and may lead to many teary phone calls home to mom and dad.

“Discussing these emotions before kids leave can be helpful,” Dr. Glaser says. “You want your child to know she can reach out to you.”

When you get those teary phone calls, tell your kids that homesickness is very common and they aren’t the only ones who have felt it. Talk through their emotions with them. Find out why they’re upset or scared, and see if you can help them find a solution. Also, try to avoid having them come home when they’re upset. That can make it even harder for them to get over homesickness.

Left Behind?

College is also a big change for the rest of the family. Younger brothers and sisters—and parents—now have one less member of the family to talk to and play with.

Ask your college student to check in with younger brothers and sisters regularly. Texts, emails and short phone conversations are sometimes all that’s needed to keep siblings from missing each other.

If your younger kids are acting out, ask them why. Many times, parents who have just sent a child to college have learned what’s needed to get into a good school. They may put pressure on younger kids to make better grades or take part in more activities. Or, you might simply be missing your oldest child. That could make you less involved in your other children’s lives.

“It’s hard to be completely ready for your teenager to go away to college,” Dr. Glaser says. “It’s natural for parents to experience some feelings of loss.”

Download a checklist and resource guide to help you prepare for your teen’s transition to college.

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Expert Advice