Every morning at 6:00 am I take our dog for a walk through the local college campus. It’s a very peaceful time with little traffic. Recently, I have noticed an increase in the number of cars parked in the dorm lots. First came the RA’s, athletes, foreign exchange students, and gals going through Rush. Next came the freshmen, followed by the rest of the student body. All of this activity has me recalling the days that my two children headed off to college – and thinking of parents who just experienced that for the first time.

It’s the time of year when college-bound students pack up their belongings and move onto campuses across the nation. Excitement and anticipation is at an all-time high, yet the reality of leaving family, friends and familiar surroundings can be frightening. As parents, it’s never easy to let go. We’ve gone through stages throughout our child’s life where we’ve had to loosen the reigns and give them a little more freedom. From the first day of kindergarten to spending more time with their friends, to the day they begin driving, to high school graduation.  It all leads up to this….the day they move out of the house in pursuit of becoming independent, mature adults.

For parents, this stage of life can be an emotional rollercoaster! We are so proud of our kids, but it can be incredibly hard to let go. The thought of missing out on their daily events can be overwhelming and create various levels of anxiety.  If you are a parent who is experiencing this, you should not be ashamed or feel guilty! It’s just the instinct of protective love for your child! Although you’re feeling emotional, try to avoid putting that added stress on your son or daughter. Here are some positive ways of “letting go” that may also help you cope with your feelings of apprehension:

  • Trust that you have created a solid foundation for your son or daughter and that the values you’ve instilled in them will help them to make mature and informed decisions.
  • Don’t doubt yourself. Acknowledge that you’ve done your best to raise this young person and that you’ve given them the skills to succeed at life.
  • Set boundaries and keep the lines of communication open. If you don’t hover over your child or make them feel guilty about not visiting or calling enough, they are more likely to reach out to you about what’s going on in their lives.
  • Give them time and space to develop. That means you need to be their cheerleader rather than their coach. Let them stumble and figure things out for themselves. They will appreciate the opportunity to grow and mature.
  • Send an occasional care package or card with kind, encouraging words. It will let them know that you are thinking of them and it might be great therapy for you as well!

When I was a sophomore in college I wrote my parents a letter from the heart. It wasn’t an assignment, it just took that long for me to see what a wonderful upbringing I had and to fully appreciate it. So parents never fear….as your child matures, they too will grow to appreciate everything that you have done for them throughout the years. Here’s to all of those college bound kids and the parents that are letting them go. May you have a seamless and wonderful transition, and may the odds be ever in your favor!