The following post was written by one of our Admissions Coaches who doubles as our Administrative Coordinator, Deb Coco. She offers excellent advice and speaks from experience as she sends her second daughter off to college.
As thousands of parents of high school seniors will do, I send my second of three daughters to college in about two weeks. I already find myself in the few moments I have alone, feeling the sense of impending loss any parent who has been there can relate to. I stop at her room and realize she won’t be there every day anymore – I will set one fewer plate at dinner- I won’t hear her run down the stairs in the morning . . .simple things, but it’s these simple moments that I found most challenging to face when my oldest daughter left. I felt, for lack of a better word, lost.
The build up before a child leaves for college is filled with mixed emotions for everyone involved. Although students will deny it, their anxiety level bubbles quietly under the surface of a well of excitement. As parents, we get caught up in the details – the “what do we have to do before we actually load the car,” and going through these motions helps alleviate the feeling of loss and panic we undeniably feel.
As with any other journey in life, the fear of the unknown is what makes it most stressful. With both children, I found that letting them organize the college selection process on their own (maneuvering the school websites, setting up our tours, registering for new student orientation, etc.), was key. Giving our student a sense of ownership about this process, allows parents to begin to let go and in turn, gives the student the sense of independence they need to begin to pull away from us. I’ve found that hovering never worked well and caused more problems than it solved. As a result, I believe I have three very independent and organized daughters. They took their college selection process seriously and in turn, we as a family benefitted from their organization and commitment . They also felt extremely proud that they “handled” this somewhat unique experience, in large part, on their own. We were always there, but as a support system, not as a controlling force.
My advice as the weeks towards school departures draw close, would be two-fold. Parents should try, as hard as it is, to keep your anxiety level in check. The sadness we feel often compounds our children’s nerves, and it’s best to channel the emotions into a positive. Help your child get things done; shop for bedding, look over their class selections, discuss their meal plan options. Focus on what needs to get done (and the list is LONG). I found that by being organized in this regard, I was able to allow myself the swell of emotion that washes over you when you do drop them off, and it was not made worse by worrying that we weren’t actually “ready.” As parents, we are never totally ready to watch our children walk out the door to begin their own lives. But it’s a rite of passage and we should be proud that our love and guidance helped get them there. I won’t ever be fully adjusted to seeing my daughters’ rooms empty, but now I am able to focus on our visits and their vacations at home and secretly enjoy the fact that I do a whole lot less laundry.