In 44 short days, I’ll be packing yet another daughter off to as she leaves for college to become a cadet at West Point. As the lump in my throat grows and the butterflies take root in my stomach, it is time to start preparing myself for the departure.
Survival Guide to Sending Your Child Off to College
- Assure them that they will succeed socially and academically in college. You believe in your kid!
- Leave no doubt in their minds that you are happy for them and that you will be just fine once they leave. Your life will not fall apart. You will not be plunged into an abyss of despair.
- Spend a happy summer together that is not filled with drama.
June, July, and August are often be fraught with tension because you and your teen will most likely have different ideas of how this time should be spent.
You are trying to cram as many memorable moments into these last weeks *you’ll ever spend together* as a family unit before *everything changes.* Warning!!! It is easy to become overly dramatic and emotional as you look into your crystal ball and imagine how dismal and empty life will be without your child around. Stay calm and try to remember goal number three, a happy summer with no drama.
Your child, on the other hand, is trying to hang out with their friends who they will *never see again*…or at least until Thanksgiving, which is pretty close to never. Friends are like family to a lot of teens and these relationships are almost as important to them as family. Hurtful, but true.
Communication and calendaring are integral parts of working through these months. Don’t lecture about the importance of family time…boring and annoying! Get out your planners and schedule some fun stuff in. Make a summer bucket list together and map out when you will knock a few of these things out. Plan which nights you would like to sit down as a family for dinner together. Shopping for dorm supplies is another fun bonding activity to do together. Keep yourself busy! Find things to do that you enjoy and talk about them with your child so that it is clear that you have a life outside of being their mom.
The BIG Day:
Arrive on site as early as is allowed for parking/unloading advantages as well as best bunk selection. Be prepared to be super flexible, easy-going, and unobtrusive. And really, try not to cry. Your child may be feeling overwhelmed and nervous about leaving home. Seeing mom or dad crying won’t help ease their jitters, and worse, may make them feel like tearing up too.
One of the biggest keys to success on The Big Day is not embarrassing your child. This is one of their worst fears. Everything is new to them and they are incredibly self-conscious. For some reason, they don’t understand that everyone is in the same boat. Don’t bother trying to remind them of this. They are trying to make a good first impression while you are trying to enjoy your last few hours together and impart *important* final parental love and guidance.
~This is not the day for heart to heart talks. Make sure you’ve already said your piece.
~Don’t speak for your child. Now is a great time to show them that you believe in their ability to work things out on their own.
~This is not the time to tell *funny* stories about your cutie.
~Remember to let them take the lead; this is their moment.
~Know when it’s time to leave.
~Leave any micromanaging or helicopter parenting tendencies at home.
~Make yourself useful by setting up the computer, tv, and other electronics. Hauling out the extra garbage is nice, too.
~Don’t try to make friends for your kid. Embarrassing.
~Use your inside voice.
~If your freshman is interested, take a walk around campus and locate important places such as the dining hall, classrooms, the ATM, etc.
~Try not to project your angst over setting up the room, the new roommate, or leaving them there. It will all work out.
~When it’s time to leave, be quick about it. No need to linger. Warm hugs all around then get in the car and go ahead and CRY!
Life without your Freshman:
The long ride home can be quite the somber, silent event as you wonder what your child is up to and whether or not they will remember to brush their teeth. No matter how many ways you can rationalize it in your mind, Do NOT call!! Allow them to initiate contact.
The first week without your child around is the toughest so be sure to have some fun activities planned with other family members or friends. When my oldest left for college, my third daughter dragged my sad, weepy self to the mall for a little a lot of shopping which helped perk me up.
Another way to boost your spirits is to put together a big care package. I think these are as therapeutic for moms as they are for the recipients. Shopping for delicious treats, a few fun goodies, and then tucking in a nice card never fails to lift my mood. If I’m short on time, I just ship off the “Lazy Mama’s Care Package” which is always very well received. This is a $20 bill stuffed into an envelope with a short note.
In time, a new sense of normal takes over your life and equilibrium returns. Letting your kids know that you are happy, busy and well will make their transition to college life that much easier.
“The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.” ~ Denis Waitley
**Mistakes I made which somewhat qualify me to write this post:
- I was whiny and irritable when my oldest daughter wanted to hang out with her boyfriend and friends the summer before she left for college. This did not make for a very pleasant summer for either of us.
- Two days after I dropped my oldest off at college, I ended up in the ER with a severe migraine due to the stress of her leaving. Try to relax more than I did!
- Daughter number two is quiet so I thought I’d try to help her make some friends when we arrived on campus. This turned out to be super awkward for all parties involved.
- I’m pretty sure I gave off the impression that my life would be over once Daughter One and Daughter Two left for college. Since this time, I’ve worked really hard to “Get a Life.”