Whether you’re excited or sad about it, having a child leave for college is a big adjustment. Among other things, you won’t see them on a daily basis and likely won’t be as tuned into their lives as you once were.
As difficult as it can be to let go, plenty of parents have been through this before, learning some valuable lessons along the way. Here’s the advice that parents who have already sent kids off to college have to share on how they got through the time leading up to the move, the big day and the aftermath.
“Leading up to the day he left home, we kept busy.”
Rachel Baer admits that it was “sad” when her oldest son Matt left for college, but she and her family got through the transition by keeping busy. “There were many events and parties to attend at school, seeing friends, and buying the items Matt needed to take with him,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
Baer says she “grieved” after Matt left for school, but did things to keep herself busying, including focusing on her younger son who was still at home. She also started volunteering at a local animal shelter, trained as a yoga instructor, and focused more attention on her cats. “It certainly helped to have a new focus for our love and attention,” she says.
“At departure, try as hard as you can to be strong.”
Parents repeatedly talk about how difficult the act of dropping your child off at school can be, but Bobbe White, who has sent several kids off to college, says she tried to keep the mood upbeat for the sake of her children. “My M.O. was to keep remembering how excited our student was,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “What business did I have raining on their parade?”
White says she “didn’t want to be a sobbing mama” and that it was “very important to me that I presented a positive, strong front. I could cry in the car after leaving.” That upbeat attitude was especially crucial when one of her children was upset. “Be strong for them. I know it’s hard, but try,” she advises.
“There is a hole in your heart, but you have to figure out how to go on anyway.”
Mother of three Lisa Kammerer tells Yahoo Lifestyle that it’s “really hard” to come home from college with one less child. “It’s very strange, but it eventually becomes your new normal,” she says. When her oldest son Griffin went to college, she says she “just tried to keep myself busy as much as I could.”
She also lost a close family friend just days before Griffin left, and ended up going to therapy to deal with everything. “It’s not a death, but this is a part of your family that’s changed,” Kammerer says. “There was a hole. It was very weird to not have Griffin come in the door, not to have him sit at the table and eat breakfast before he went to school…it was very painful for a long time and I talked about it in great lengths in therapy.”
Kammerer says she made sure to exercise regularly during this time, which she says is a “mental release” for her, and, when her second son left the house, her family got a puppy. “It helped all of us,” she says. “The puppy is a great distraction.”
“We took the mindset that we were excited to watch her grow.”
Father of five Jode Allen says it was hard when his oldest daughter left for college, but he and his wife tried to focus on the positive. “Emotionally, both she and we were excited for the day [she moved out],” he tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I think that is what carried us through the day, too.”
Allen says he and his wife chose to focus on what his daughter was accomplishing, instead of what they might be losing. “Because of that, there was little ‘aftermath,’” he says. “It was rather, life as normal.”
“I had always worked part-time and got a full-time position before my son left for college.”
Liza Dolan has five children and she says it was a “big adjustment” when her oldest daughter was getting ready to leave for school. One thing that helped during that time: a new job. She was teaching part-time for a community college and had the opportunity to work full-time. “I decided to go ahead and do it,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. "I found the new job to be tremendously helpful in coping with my daughter departing. I had something else to focus on instead of her leaving.”
Dolan says she still had a “constant feeling of stress” after her daughter left, but staying busy “helped me refocus.” “You realize that they’re all going to leave sometime and it’s just going to be you and your husband,” she says. “It’s never going back to the way it was before. It’s not easy, but I’m so glad I had the new job to distract me.”
“I gave her more leeway in making her own decisions before she left.”
Larissa Gleason-Clark says she started having her daughter Emma take on more responsibilities before she left for college as a way of letting go. “I had her do more of the college prep work and choose her classes,” she tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “She had to take care of setting up her accounts. I handed the paperwork to her and said, ‘I’m not going to do that for you.’”
Gleason-Clark says that was helpful for both of them. “I saw that she could handle it, and it was a relief,” she says. “I wasn’t 100 percent sure of that beforehand.”
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