When I became a parent for the first time, there were so many emotions and questions packaged up along with that bundle of joy my husband and I brought into our lives. Were we ready to be parents? Could we do this? What if we screwed up or didn’t have all of the answers? Bringing that new person home for the first time and having to be responsible for raising him, making sure he was fed and bathed and had all of his shots was an overwhelming responsibility! But never fear, we quickly learned to adapt and began to mold that little person into a thriving individual.
The day my son began kindergarten was an emotional day as well. Many tears and worries rushed through my head and down my cheeks. When I finally got myself collected and sat down in my recliner at home I recall thinking to myself, “What am I worried about? We have another child at home and it will be a long, long time before we have to think about drivers licenses, first cars, high school graduations and college”. Well, as any parent knows, time flies! Parenthood traditionally has two monumental moments…when your child enters your life and when they are reared and move out. We have made it through both phases with our eldest child and are faced with our youngest packing up her belongings and moving out of our home in just two short months. This is the day that I never thought would come when I was sitting in my recliner all of those years ago. This is the day that I have dreaded for nearly two decades!
Although I am trying to come to terms with the transition that I’m about to face, it has been difficult! The thought of becoming an “empty nester” doesn’t appeal to me. However, I have to keep reminding myself that ultimately this was my goal, to raise strong, independent children. To arm my children with an education, morals, a good family background….to give them roots and wings. It’s alright to grieve, because our family dynamics are changing and I find that what I’m trying to do is hold on to life as we know it. We will still be their parents and they will still come to us for answers, maybe not on a daily basis, but our role now is to be there for them. We are a comfort zone; we are a shoulder to cry on; we are a resource for them to tap into. We will not stop being parent and child; we are simply moving on to a different phase of our lives.
Tips for sending your child off to college:
- We all want to arm our children with helpful last-minute thoughts and advice before turning them loose on their college campus. Jot down thoughts throughout the summer and prior to move in day, arrange them into some type of meaningful letter that your son or daughter can refer to in times of doubt. A letter that will not be deleted, that can be read over and over again and the messages can be absorbed.
- Begin finding activities now that can fill the void when your child moves out of your “nest.” Maybe you have some repair or remodel jobs that you’ve wanted to do around the house. Or maybe you’ve always wanted to join a gym but never had the time with the kid’s busy schedules. Golfing, scrapbooking, volunteer opportunities or travel are also some great ways to eat up that freed-up time.
- Just because your child has moved out and you are entering a different phase of your life, doesn’t mean that you have to let go of everything at once. You can still attend their high school’s sporting or fine-arts events now and then. Volunteer at the school and maybe even continue to receive the school’s newsletter for one more year. Your transition doesn’t have to be “cold turkey” by any means. You have every right to stay connected for as long as it takes you to transition
- Schedule a “ladies night out” or a “men’s stag” night for the same time each month, with others who are also becoming empty nesters. They will appreciate the company and the companionship of others who are going through the same phase in life.
Final thoughts for move-in day:
- Do not portray your sadness. These young adults have enough on their minds with the new surroundings, roommates and class schedules without having to worry about how you’re going to hold up. Be excited for them and the great possibilities that lie ahead. It also doesn’t hurt to give yourself a pat on the back, because you’ve raised a wonderful young adult who is ready to face the world!
- Don’t be a general. Take their lead when moving them in. This is their time and although you may have more experience in organizing, let them arrange the room and closets how they’d like. It doesn’t have to be perfect!
- Don’t draw out your goodbye. This will definitely be the most difficult time of the entire move and there will be tears, both theirs and yours. Do it quickly, like ripping off a Band-Aid, to make it as painless as possible.
- Don’t hold your child back. By hovering or constantly calling or texting your child or even demanding that they visit regularly, you are sabotaging their opportunity to grow and become independent. You are their family and they will check in with you or come “home” to see you once in a while!
Finally, plan a fun activity the day after you move your child to college so you aren’t sitting around wondering what they are doing or noticing how quiet the house is!
If you sent children off to college, add your words of wisdom below. We all learn from each other’s experiences.