One of the most anxiety ridden activities of high school is going through the application process. After your child is done receiving acceptances, waitlists, and rejections, then what? There is a short period of time when your child picks a school. Then, your whole family is excited, and you buy the sweatshirt for their new school. Then, you snap photos of your child wearing the sweatshirt and announce the big news all over social media. Your child tells all of his/her friends and then everyone is excited about the new school year in the fall.
One day over the summer, your child attends orientation at the new school and receives a schedule; then it hits you. Your little baby, who you used to carry around, feed, cloth, and snuggle with, is going to leave the house. This means no more good night hugs, no more good morning greetings, no more cooking a favorite meal and seeing the joy on your child’s face. It is over until Thanksgiving vacation. If your child leaves for school in August, it will be three full months before they come home for Thanksgiving.
You might get lucky, and your child attends a school with a Parent’s Weekend in early October. This is a weekend designated for parents to come on campus and visit their student. Chances are, your student will also have their own activities planned such as study groups for mid-terms and projects. You might get a little bit of time with your student, and some meals off campus, but it won’t be the full time attention you are accustomed to back home. Your student has their own life now.
This is hard. No-one tells you how hard it is. Everyone tells stories about how proud they are of their child, but no-one tells you how much you will miss your student. While nothing will replace hugging your child, there are a few things you can do to ease the pain, and to help you survive your student leaving for college.
- Get a hobby. If you have a hobby, especially a new one, it will add something new to your life and also distract you from the missing person at the dinner table.
- Concentrate on the other kids. Do you still have other kids at home? Don’t forget about them. Stay focused on their lives and enjoy parenting them while they are still home.
- Don’t tell your child how much you miss them. If you tell your child how much you miss them and break into tears, they will feel guilty for going away. When you speak with your student, tell them how proud you are of them, and ask about their life.
- Help them break-away and be excited about becoming an independent adult. Of course, no college student is fully independent. They will ask you for pizza money and call you for things such as how to remove a coffee stain from their favorite shirt.
- Try to keep texting and calling at a minimum. If you need to reach out to your student, wait until the evening when they are back in their dorm room relaxing. You don’t want to bother them while they are studying and running from class to class.
- Plan for their return. Look at the schedule for when your child returns for vacation. Plan some activities for those days and also schedule in down time for your student to sleep in and relax.
A child going away to college is a natural part of the parenting cycle. Your child is eighteen years old, and while he or she may not be ready to own a house and care for it, as well as themselves, your child will be ready to tackle things like laundry, getting to the cafeteria for food, keeping their room clean (well, we hope, haha), waking up in the morning, and paying attention to their studies.
Although your child went away to college, they still need you. They will still come home for vacation and breaks. While they aren’t in the house full-time anymore, your student will always be your child, and they will also love you. Embrace the growing up part, and help to guide them through the struggles.
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