Your child's move to college is a momentous event. For eighteen years you have striven to make it to this day, the day when your child is ready to leave the house and begin learning to enter the adult world. Though your responsibilities do not end and you will forever define yourself as a parent, your role is changing. Most of the responsibility for your child's well being has shifted from your shoulders to theirs.
If you have not prepared for this change, then it can hit you hard. The attachment to your child does not end when they leave, after all. You may find yourself struggling to cope with the change, feeling empty and even depressed if you find that you cannot. But there are ways to ease into this transition and to lessen its impact. After all, your child's move to college is a moment of success for you as a parent. It is something that you should be able to celebrate and appreciate.
Begin Preparing Early
During your child's teen years, it will become apparent that they are getting ready to become independent. It's a natural part of a teenager's development that is signaled by getting a driver's license or a job, even dating. Let those signs be a wake up call to you. It's time to get ready for the final break. There are two things that you will want to focus on here. The first is preparing your child for this change.
Make sure that your child will be ready to handle independence when they get there, or you will never know a night of peace during their collage career. The second is taking back center stage in your own life. This means taking a hard look at your life and your goals in order to adjust them so that you are once again the priority. You may find that you pick up hobbies and interests that have fallen by the wayside over the years. You may choose to throw yourself into a new degree or career. You may decide to begin traveling with your spouse. But by the time your child leaves the house, you will want to be fully engrossed in your own life.
Accept the Emotions
Your child's departure will leave a hole in your life, no matter how prepared you think you are. It is important that you recognize that fact and accept the feelings that come with it. Trying to deny yourself the right to grieve or feel guilty or even get angry will only exacerbate the negative emotions. Instead, give yourself permission to feel your emotions and then move on to more positive thoughts and actions.
Make a point of keeping in touch with your child, while refraining from smothering them. Their happiness and successes will help you to put your feelings into perspective and cope. Over time, you will find that your preparations have worked, that you have enough new interests and activities in your life to excite you while still leaving room for your child's new position in your world.
Let Them Go
As hard as it might be, with the right preparation you'll be able to let your child go without too much difficulty. There may be some tears and some long hugs, but over time you'll be able to shift into this new phase of your life. You'll get used to not having your child around all the time. They'll still come home for winter and summer break, allowing you to continue to spend quality time with them.
In the weeks and days leading up to your child's move to college, don't dwell too much on the idea of them leaving. Instead, focus on making their final days at home special. Do fun things together, go out to eat, and make lasting memories. This will give you positive things to look back on once your child has gone off to college.
Remember that your child is not responsible for your own ability to handle them leaving. Don't rely on your child to ease your worries or to alleviate your sadness. While it's okay to be honest with them and to lean on them from time to time, remember that your ability to deal with this change is ultimately on you. If you find that you're struggling a lot, especially if it has been several weeks or more since your child's departure, consider speaking with a counselor.
There's nothing wrong with needing to talk to a professional about this time in your life. Change is never easy, especially when it heralds the end of your time as the one responsible for your child's care. A counselor can help you work through your emotions in a healthy way, so that you're able to make peace with this new phase in your life.