Preparing to let go

The college countdown is on, and the start of fall semester is only a few weeks away. Parents, if you’re having a hard time thinking about your kid leaving the nest, there are a few things you can do to ease the transition for both you and your new college student.

I can tell you from experience that while it’s hard to let go, it’s so rewarding to watch your child mature into a young adult who can handle whatever life dishes out. It can be tough to sit back and watch, but now’s the time to start doing just that. Here are a few tips for making it happen:

Don’t linger at the drop off. Lug the big boxes and furniture of course. Help hook up the electronics if need be. Run any last-minute errands. Heck, even offer to buy lunch after the heavy lifting is done. But then go. Really. Just go. Resist the urge to help organize drawers, make beds, and advise on room arrangement. Give your kid the space needed to meet the roommate and settle into the college experience. Get out the Kleenex on the ride home. Then grab a nice dinner and revel in your accomplishment—you’ve gotten a kid off to college! (Pat self on back.)

Have a plan for yourself. If you’ve got other kids at home, it’s time to dig into the new routine. Maybe your next kid is being promoted to the big bedroom, or inherits a car. Enjoy these milestones and give them their due. The family dynamic is changing—embrace the new atmosphere. If you’re facing an empty nest, turn the focus to yourself. Take that class, go on the trip you’ve been postponing, start a new volunteer position. Do whatever it takes to keep yourself busy and happy, and not worrying over your college student. Which leads me to my next point.

Limit your contact. Unplug from the cell phone, and don’t obsessively check your kid’s Facebook page. Remember how often you talked to your own parents during college? I recall the once-a-week phone call being about the norm. Hang onto that and realize that it’s perfectly okay not to talk or text every single day.

Encourage independence. Inevitably your college student is going to call with a problem: “I need money” or “My roommate is annoying” or “My professor is so unfair.” Now’s the time to watch their independence unfold. Assume they just want to bend your ear, and try to remember that muddling through things is how you grow. And now is your kid’s time to grow.

If you’ve already sent your student off to college, got any tips to share with fellow parents?

About Caroline Hanson

Caroline is a communications consultant for Wells Fargo Education Financial Services. Although she has been known to forget her own ZIP code, she has memorized the lyrics to every bad 1970s pop song ever written. Unfortunately, she also loves karaoke. Caroline spends her spare time at Target®. She also likes biking slowly and has participated in RAGBRAI. Caroline is a graduate of Iowa State University and has worked in journalism and public relations for the past 14 years. She lives in Iowa with her husband and has a 19-year-old stepdaughter and 2-year-old son.
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