There are entire books written for teens going away to college - how to prepare, how to make the best of your freshman year, getting the most from your undergraduate education, etc... but what many parents forget to read are the books about what it is like to watch your teen prepare to leave home - maybe for good! I will be reviewing a couple of those books for parents in the next few weeks, but for now, I just want to put my arms around all of the parents out there who have just been left at home while their teens went off to college! Here is a great big hug!
I know this is tough - I have been watching for months, as the packing, planning, and saying good-bye has been happening, but now, there is a finality to the whole process - the teen is safely settled into a dorm somewhere far away, excited about buying books, doing laundry, eating in the cafeteria, meeting great people, starting classes, and adjusting to the weather. Great for him or her - but what about the parent - who is waiting for the phone to ring and dealing with the emptiness in the house, at the dinner table, in the car, and in his or her day?
Some parents seem calm - almost peaceful - and others are stressed, tearful, and anxious - and I am unsure what makes the difference. We all knew this was coming - there were college applications, the SAT and AP exams, graduation - there is only one place those activities take our children - away from us! Whether your child moved out of the house for good or left their room intact and moved into a dorm - they are adults now - on their own, responsible for themselves, and thanks to you, prepared!
I keep flashing back to when my first child started kindergarten. I remember reassuring her that even if I was not with her during the day, I was still in her heart and then crying my eyes out as the door to the room shut behind me. I remember telling myself I had done everything I could to give her the self-confidence and skills she needed, and it was time to let her go walk through the world without me. All that drama for four hours every morning five days a week seems so silly now - and really petty compared to letting a kid go off to the other side of the country and live in a co-ed dorm. Whether or not it is a fair comparison - the issues are the same - and we use the same words to describe the process - launching, empty nest, letting go, and independence.
This is an important transition - your young adults need to learn how to manage their lives without us nagging at them, saving them or helping them organize and accomplish things - it is their time and we have done everything we can to help them be successful - now let them go and start filling the holes. Take care of yourself, spend more time with other children, friends or spouses, start a new hobby, work more, but let your teen be independent. No calling five times a day, or trying to keep them attached! Breathe deep, pat yourself on the back for raising a successful human being, and move on - it will be a gift for both of you!