Kid Going Away to College? Here’s How to Cope

Parents might not know how to handle this transition in their child's life. Here's how to get through the big change.

With fall comes a new semester of college, and that means children are going off to universities and leaving behind parents and possibly siblings.

As a parent, it might be tempting to call all the time to check in on your child and make sure she’s doing everything she’s supposed to, but it’s time to loosen those reins.

Enjoy the children you may still have at home, or enjoy your newly empty nest.

My kid is going away to college. Now what?

Step No. 1: Don’t worry.

“Parents are happy but remorseful,” says Cynthia Reynolds, executive director at First Family Counseling. “Their parenting is going to change.”

Reynolds explains that it is important to realize that the relationship they have been building with their children for years isn’t going away, just changing. They are taking on a less authoritative role and becoming more of a consult.

“Keep communication open, but back off a bit,” says Reynolds. “Wait for them to share.”

Parents should keep their relationship close, but trust that they raised their child right and that they’ll make good choices.

Let them be adults

It might be hard for some parents, but they have to let their child take the reins for a while. You can’t drive the car forever; sometimes you have to be the backseat driver.

“Parents shouldn’t take over,” says Reynolds. “Let them start steering themselves.”

It is also important for parents to remember that mistakes are a good thing, Reynolds says. Everyone has to learn from his or her mistakes, and parents have to back off enough to let that happen. They can be there for whatever repercussions occur, but it is up to the child to make good or bad choices in their life and learn from it.

Parents have to trust themselves, as well. You raised a fully functioning young adult who is going away to college and is ready to take care of herself.

What to do with all that closet space

So you have more space, both physically and mentally. It’s been 18 years since that space was free.

That’s a new feeling.

Even if this wasn’t your first child going out into the world, it is a different feeling for each child because each child is different.

Reynolds suggests that parents do things for themselves, such as hobbies or spending more time with friends.

“Look at it not as an ending, but as a beginning for a new phase of life,” says Reynolds.

Even if your kids are adults, you’re still more adult, and that means you paid your dues and can focus on yourself. Finally.

Reflect on your life and think about what you want to do with this new phase. Maybe you want to remodel something in your house or you want to work through your massive pile of ‘to-read’ books.

But if you’re really missing your kid, Reynolds suggests volunteering with organizations dealing with children.

“That might be your niche,” says Reynolds. “You can use those skills with other children.”

Whatever you choose to do with your time, remember that your children aren’t gone. Just because they’re adults, that doesn’t mean you’re done being a parent, as parenthood doesn’t end.

But now you can put yourself first for a little while.

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