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Leaving the Nest: How to Cope With Your Child Leaving For College

by Tim Brunicardi on January 31, 2017

When it comes to your child leaving for college for the first time, this is one of those experiences that is both exciting and daunting.  For parents, in particular, it can be a time of mixed emotions.

Here at Hocking College, we want every single student to succeed. We also want the parents of our students to relax, stop worrying, and have faith that their children are succeeding in their new college environment.

Here are five tips for parents on how to cope when your child leaves for college:

Acknowledge your conflicting feelings

You share your child’s excitement. Yet, you might also be worried and anxious. You will most likely experience some sadness and grief. Acknowledge these feelings. Allow yourself to cry. Remember though, that leaving for college is a good thing, and that your grief is temporary. You will adjust.

child leaving for college

Focus on your life

Don’t let your worries distract you from your own life. Maybe you have other children at home who need your attention. They are missing their siblings as well - even if they deny it and are reveling in having their own room for the first time! Focus on your marriage and your relationships with friends and family. Dive into a work project. Spend time on a hobby that you’ve neglected. Start an exercise program. Keep yourself busy.

Find new ways to communicate

Surely you will miss seeing your child at the breakfast table every morning. You will notice that you don’t run out of milk quite as often. Your water bill will go down when your teenager is not home everyday to take ridiculously long showers. That doesn’t mean that you can’t touch base with them in new ways. 

Facebook is an excellent way to communicate and to keep tabs on the new friends that your child is making. FaceTime is a fun way to talk on the phone and to see your child’s face at the same time. It’s interesting to see your child’s dorm room during a conversation, or for your child to catch a glimpse of the family pets. Skype works just as well. Email is fast and easy.  Hand-written letters and cards are kind of wonderful too. Those letters will someday become cherished mementos. 

Resist the urge to hover

You will be tempted to check in on a daily basis. Maybe this is okay for the first week or so. Slowly, cut back -  give your child some room to grow. Some teenagers adjust more quickly than others and you will determine what is best. Try to resist solving every single problem they encounter. College is a place for learning and also a time for them to experience independence. Be supportive. Listen. Let them figure things out for themselves. 

Plan regular visits to see your child

Encourage your child to enjoy her time at school: study hard, make friends, get involved. As much as you may miss them, (and as much as they may miss you,) don’t encourage them to come home every single weekend. Plan visits in advance - look forward to long weekends and holidays. Find out if there are special events that your child is involved in at Hocking College and plan a time to come visit and spend a day on campus. 

Bottom Line

In summary, acknowledge your feelings, and know that your grief will soon turn into relief. You will soon realize that your child is capable of taking care of herself, and is adapting well to her new circumstances. Your sense of relief will in turn, become joy, when you realize that your child is happy and succeeding in college and building a bright future for herself.

Your hard work as a parent is paying off big time! Good job Mom & Dad!

 more resources for parents 

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