Disclaimer, I am not a parenting expert, I have made and continue to make mistakes, I can only share experiences that may help another parent in some way, if even one. One of the biggest changes in our home was when one of my daughters left for college. In the process, I knew it was going to happen, but, knowing and preparing is different from dealing with it when it actually happens. As parents, we tend to always see our children as that carefree whimsical kid amused by bubbles or playing in the waves at the beach, it is hard to see them as adults able to be on their own. With one in her third year, 7 states away and another planning to go away as well, here are things I have found helpful and unsolicited advice I am passing on.
When you are budgeting for tuition, housing, food, books and their travel back and forth, don’t forget to budget for your own. Their class and life in general schedule may not always allow for them to travel home, go there. I have found that the time when my daughter cannot spend with me has allowed me time to explore the city where her school is. I have embraced the city as her home away from home and when we chat and she tells me things about the area, I can relate, helped her acclimate, and me quite frankly so I did not have to worry quite as much with the unknown.
Sign up for updates from the school, this has helped me feel more connected to the campus life and what is taking place. I caution you, it is tempting to, not to sign up for the alerts from campus as they are designed to go to the individual close to what is taking place for quick action. Should you be the one getting the alerts to stay away from an area or some other emergency, you are delaying the notification to your child adding another step in the process. I promise you, of you are signed up for updates, you will know what took place and can talk to your child about it.
Join parent groups and forums, this is crucial, especially for the first year to help you to not feel alone or out of the loop. The feelings you are having, trust me, there are quite a few others feeling the same. As an out-of-state parent, get to know local parents, they will keep you informed, can check in if needed, and provide support when you cannot get there in time. You have to sift through postings sometimes but overall, it is really worth it, even if you just want to let off steam on an incident, someone will join your misery. This really helps, promise.
OK, so here is the hardest part, the emotional stuff. No matter how much you prepare, it will hurt, a lot, the first time you pull away from moving them in the first time. Cry, cry, cry some more, you will stop crying but you will miss them so much. Expect this same reaction the second, third, fourth, and possibly fifth time you separate. Eventually, it stops because you know they are ok and will be, and you just get used to it. Expect them to stop calling you everyday, messaging will diminish some as well over time but it will still happen.
You have to trust them that you did you part and they will do the right thing. They will make mistakes just as you did, they will have bumps in the road, but they will actually get through it and be ok. Don’t get involved with their counselors and advisors, trust them to make the decisions. They will reach out when “adulting” gets too hard and they need help. The occasional reminders don’t hurt just don’t hover, they are finding themselves now and need the space to do so.
I share this not only to help someone else but help myself as I am preparing for my youngest to go off to college in eighteen months, repeating the process and building my strength for what is to come. Bottom line, they will be fine, repeat after me, they will be fine.
Taking deep breaths until my next visit, waiting for a text… mom.