Preparing for Your Child to Leave for College: A Guide for Parents
As a parent, saying goodbye to your child as they leave the nest can be an emotional and challenging experience. It is a time of significant change, and it is essential to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for this transition. Here are some tips on how to navigate this process as your child prepares to leave home for college:
Acknowledge Your Feelings
It's okay to feel a mix of emotions, from excitement and tremendous pride to sadness, anxiety, and even fear or loss. It's important to embrace these emotions and give yourself time to process them. Knowing that other parents are in the same boat as you may provide some relief. Be open with your child about how you feel without making your feelings their burden, and give them the opportunity to express their emotions and feelings as well.
Face the Empty Nest
As your child gets ready to leave, you may experience an 'empty nest' feeling since their departure will lead to significant changes in your life. This can be a difficult time, as you learn to adjust to the fact that they won't be around as much as before. Many parents (especially those who had assumed primary parenting responsibilities or those who were "at home" parents) struggle with lack of identity as well as grief and loss during this transition. Embrace the change, and focus on your own life goals and aspirations you have put to one side until now. Remember the things you enjoyed outside of parenting and start doing them again, or cultivate new hobbies and activities.
Boundaries with Communication
Keeping in touch can help you feel connected to your child as they take on new challenges on campus. However, it's crucial to set boundaries and respect your child's independence. Find a communication schedule that works for both of you and be mindful of the difference between staying in touch and smothering them. They need to be able to navigate this new phase of their life without feeling tethered to home. Negotiate reasonable boundaries with regards to "tracking" their locations and "checking in"on them while also letting them know you've still got their backs should they ever need you, even if from afar.
Self-Care is Vital
Amidst all of this change, taking care of yourself is still essential. Maintaining your physical and emotional health is crucial for your wellbeing, so practice self-care by making time for activities that you enjoy, such as taking a long walk or starting that hobby you've wanted to try but never had the time to. Be sure you're eating regularly and well, getting enough sleep, and taking care of your body. Investing in your own personal and professional growth can help as well.
Creating New Meaning
Now that you don't have to parent all day every day, you might find yourself with more time on your hands. Embrace this opportunity with open arms by finding new meaning in your life. This might mean diving into a new hobby, volunteering for a cause you're passionate about, or taking a class that's been on your to-do list. Sitting around with emptiness is bound to foster sadness, so get out there!
Cultivating New Relationships
With your child heading to college, it's natural to wonder about what life will look like without them around. You might find yourself missing the social interaction that comes with being a parent and attending school, athletic, or performance events. Take the opportunity to invest time in cultivating new adult relationships to fill this gap. This could mean forming new relationships with parents of other college children or finding organizations that align with your interests.
As your child heads off to college, they will begin to manage their money more independently. Helping them navigate this new responsibility is essential, and an excellent way to start is by discussing budgeting and money management. Try to avoid giving them free reign with the debit cards and instead, work WITH them to create a realistic budget for college and recreational expenses and encouraging them to develop a systematic approach to money management. This will help set them up for a successful financial future.
By acknowledging your feelings and following these tips, you will be able to support your child's college transition while keeping yourself mentally and emotionally healthy. Remember, this is a momentous occasion for both you and your child, and embracing this change together can make it a powerful and meaningful experience.
If you're finding this transition harder than you thought it would be, we'd love to support you. Please reach out!