Supporting Parents. Fostering Change.

Mass Exodus

My facebook page looks like an evacuation drill. There is picture after picture of college kids moving into their dorms, cars packed full of room decorations, and happy smiles all around. It could be because the people taking the pictures are not in them! I feel pretty certain that if the college goers turned the lens on their parents, the photos would be slightly less upbeat. Sending your child off to the unknown brings with it a flood of emotions. Having sent two of my three kids off already (one is actually out of college completely!), I have firsthand knowledge of the tidal wave of thoughts and feelings it brings about. So what can I offer you in the way of advice or comfort that is not already out there in the thousands of articles on this subject? Maybe you are ready for this next chapter in your relationship with your child and cannot wait to have conversations about apartments they can rent, majors, SEX, and what kind of cleaning product removes the smell of rotten food. It could be that you dropped them off and on the way home you ordered a treadmill to put in their old room. Or possibly, you had to pull over to sob uncontrollably on the side of the road the minute you were off campus. There is no right way to feel. The idea is to keep checking in with yourself about your expectations. I think there are a few things you can do for yourself that will really help with this process and as the mom of a college kiddo, I welcome your suggestions, too.

  1. Recognize who s/he has become — they are in a whole new world now, and you’ve helped them become the person they are today. This is what parenting is all about. Drive off. Cry a bit. But also remember to celebrate the moment. You deserve it.

  2. The empty room. You’ll inevitably walk by your child’s empty room. Now that the room isn’t inhabited on a daily basis, you can go to two extremes. You could either make it a shrine to the child, or go in the other direction and make it your new home office. Don’t do either. The kid isn’t moving out for good. He’ll probably be back for a few holidays, breaks or summers during the next four years.

  3. Watch those phone calls. Best to remind your child you’re available —and love to talk at any time, but let her initiate those calls. You just may be hampering her social life — calling in the middle of class (hmmm). You could be weighing down those wings to independence, and the phone will become the extended umbilical cord into adulthood.

  4. Focus your attention on other children still living at home with you. Many parents find that senior year of high school becomes one long conversation with the graduating child, beginning with college applications and ending with school selection and prom dates. Now you can pay a little more attention to younger siblings, who were possibly rolling their eyes around the end of March when college acceptances (and rejections) started arriving. Soon enough younger children will be leaving too — enjoy them now!

  5. This advice came from a seasoned mom friend of mine and it made me chuckle: Let go. No news is good news. Let go. If the police don’t call, he’s fine. Let go. When all else fails, take a deep breath and let go. Oddly enough, as soon as you really let go, they come back… with laundry!”

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