Saturday, August 24, 2013

Coping When Your Child Leaves For College

 
SMU class of 2016- my child is in there somewhere!
So your child just left or will soon leave for college. You, the parent, are probably feeling emotions that range from "I feel like my right arm was just cut off" to doing a happy dance.

I've never done a happy dance when my children went to college, but I have felt like my right arm had been severed. Some of my friends have gone into a short term depression or felt at a loss for several weeks. It is almost a mini grieving process. It is a strange thing for that child to be gone, even if there are several more children still at home.

How do you deal with it?


Allow Yourself to Grieve
Even though you are probably happy for your child, you experience the loss of having them around.
Go ahead and grieve for a few days or weeks, but don't grieve so long that you neglect the rest of your family still at home.

Pray
Pray for your child that has flown the nest and pray for yourself as you adjust. You are both in a period of adjustment.

Get Involved
If you still have children at home, you will still be involved in parenting them. If not, maybe this is the time for you to focus on your marriage, start a new hobby, volunteer, or travel. You might have more time to do these things now. Plus, it will help take your mind off your grief.

Hopefully, these suggestions will help you with your emotions about your child being gone. I have discovered that another issue that pops up is how to communicate with your college student. As the mom, we still want to hear all about the new things they are experiencing, but I found out that they are not as eager to communicate as much as I would like. Here is how I coped with the communication issue:

Phone calls/Texting in moderation. Expecting them to call or text you everyday is not realistic unless that was their normal behavior before they left. If it was normal previously, they are busy making new friends, going to class, studying, and learning to live independently and may not have time to continue with daily contact. Don't get your feelings hurt, they are adjusting, too.

Don't expect them to always be able to talk when you do call. You don't know what you may be interrupting. One of my college students solved this problem by politely telling me, "Mom. I call you on Sundays." I knew I would talk to her on Sunday so I held my questions until then. She still calls me weekly. We might text a quick question or comment during the week, but she calls on Sunday.

Write letters - yes, the old-fashioned kind. You might have to tell them to check their mailbox so they will find it. Even if they don't respond, they will still enjoy receiving a letter from you. (Even if it doesn't contain money!) My son decided that during his first year of college he would only write real letters instead of email correspondence. We corresponded that way the whole year. Of course, I still have those letters and cherish them.

Care Packages - these are great (and common) during finals, but care packages anytime are certainly appreciated. Pack some of your child's favorite home-baked goodies and send them. This might even get you a phone call.

I have three more years before I experience the totally empty nest, so I don't know how that feels, yet. If your last child has left and you are faced with an empty nest, I would love to hear how you coped.

How did you feel when your child left for college? How did you cope?


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