College is a time of transition. There is no way to move through such a transition without feeling some sense of excitement and loss. The excitement is easy to handle. The sense of loss or dislocation is less so...especially for parents.
Students often seem different after they've been in college for awhile. There may be changes in eating and sleeping habits, hair styles, how they see themselves, and how they interact with the rest of the family.
The key is to be prepared for these changes. Don't make snap judgments on the quality or character of the differences. They may change again in the next month. Try to appreciate that your child's view of the world is expanding.
The following can help you successfully "let go" as your child goes to college:
- Build an adult relationship with your child with phone calls, e-mails, letters and "care" packages. Let the student control the timing of these interactions to help maintain that sense of freedom.
- Focus on the things you enjoyed doing before your child began college. Don't try and fill your life with new commitments to fill the void left by your child's absence. Focus on yourself for a while or other members of your family.
- Don't feel guilty if you adjust to your child being in college before other parents do. Everyone is different. Each parent makes the adjustment in his or her own time.
- Work to keep your emotions under wraps. If you burst into tears every time you speak to your child, he or she may feel bad about being in school and may avoid talking with you.
- Try not to focus conversations on problems or uncertainties you're facing in your life. Help your child focus on his or her new goals or activities.
- Limit any other major changes in your life for a while. Sending your child to college is enough of a shock. Changing jobs or moving to a new house could send everyone over the edge!
If you have other children at home, here are some other points to keep in mind:
- Keep your sense of loss or grief under wraps. If your other children see that you're very upset, they may get the feeling that you value the college student more than you do them.
- Don't try to turn one of the remaining siblings into a mirror image of the one who's gone to college. Both children will resent it.