Six tips to help when your first-born leaves for college
1) It is natural to be sad so give yourself time to grieve
There will be sadness, tears and a period of grief that is different for everyone. The fact of the matter is the feelings of sadness and emptiness are totally normal, especially for moms. There is a feeling of loss and everyone must go through the feelings to get back to a new normal. For me, it was a much longer period than my husband, who said that’s like getting 25% off our tab at a restaurant so we can dine out more. Not a great analogy for a sad mom to hear.
2) Prepare yourself for a variety of emotions
Yes, there were immediate tears of sadness when we left his dorm room with three other strangers. I thought the sadness would pass with time and distractions. What I did not expect was the ache in my heart when I walked by his old room every day or missed the chance to share a funny story or joke. I thought preparing yourself meant buying the right dorm room items and meal plan. I did not set up my weeks or months following his departure to have welcomed distractions from my worry and sadness. I found a great outlet for my emotions was writing short letters to my son. I did that for months following his departure for school. I believe they were more therapy for me than him, but he did say he enjoyed them!
3) Find a tribe of other freshman parents
This can be at work, in a local community group or with fellow parents. I think finding people who have been there, done that or have successfully launched kids into adulthood are great role models. It is very important to find people that have been there, done that and are willing to share stories and more importantly, listen. My hubby was no help in this department so I turned to colleagues who offered great advice and mostly just listened while I talked. It was the best therapy! Do not be afraid to lean on others.
4) Remember siblings
This should be called do not ignore your other children! I was wallowing in my own sadness about losing child #1 to college that I neglected my second born’s feelings. She was sad too and kind of grieving in her own way; but did later admit she liked being “like an only child”. The family goes through a change and we need to consider the kids that are still at home and need our attention. I try to plan special time for us to connect and make it all about her.
5) Agree on how to connect
There are so many great technology advances that make us able to connect now more than ever. While this is a great thing, it is even more important to talk with your son/daughter about how and when to check in. They are getting their college legs on and establishing a new life on a new campus, maybe in a new state. I wanted to give my son space to be independent but I found myself not getting what I needed (proof of life via a text is all) after weeks would go by. So, a great learning was to say let’s have a check in once a week (text is ok!) and then a phone call or facetime chat every few weeks to see his face (and dorm room). That made a world of difference once we established ground rules.
6) Remember Winnie!
My favorite Winnie The Poo phrase is "Oh Bother" followed by a second favorite line that reads “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard”. That could not be truer when it comes to having our kids start their college lives and what a true blessing they are!
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