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Surviving Sending Your Kid Off To College

Surviving Sending Your Kid Off To College
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Seeing your baby off to college is a milestone moment. No matter if he is bearded or she towers over you without stilettos, that young adult is still your baby, and you need to stop and pay attention to yourself now. The hubbub is over. The packing, rushing, arguments and turmoil of getting them out the door is done, and they’ve been dropped off at the dorm. Your house is so quiet you can hear the clock tick. What to do? Here’s a few suggestions from a survivor of the “empty nest syndrome”:

It’s okay to cry: You shed a million tears when you sent them off to kindergarten, and you should give yourself permission to cry now. Go ahead. Have a good cry (dads, too) and know its okay to feel blue for a couple of weeks. (Longer than that and you might want to talk to a professional.)
Clean their room: This doesn’t mean go in and moon over their Little League trophies. I’m talking real spring cleaning. Move the bed and vacuum, clean the blinds, wax the furniture. You are likely to be shaken out of your misty memories by the amount of dust you discover, as it has probably been years since you were allowed in there to really clean. Resist the urge to throw away any of their “stuff.” They will be back (in this economy, perhaps for a long stay after graduation) so change the sheets and be ready.

Back away from the phone (and email): Yes, they gave their sworn vow to call/text/email often. Then they broke that promise. They are busy―creating a new life. This is their time. Leave them alone.  For at least the first semester, you and The Old Homestead are “out of sight, out of mind.” If something’s wrong, you’ll hear about it (and when you do, wait to be asked for help before offering to rescue them. They have to learn to find their own solutions. Helping them learn that is part of your job as parent.)

Mail a C.A.R.E package: The days of packing juice boxes in their lunchbox are behind you, but a package from home is always welcome–particularly if it contains food. Bake their favorite bread, cake or pie, including enough for them to share with roomies. (Popcorn makes good insulating material.) Pour all your unspoken love into baking their favorites.

Make reservations for Parents Weekend: Your kid may say it is no big deal if you go, but they are lying. It is a big deal―for you and them. Seeing their room, meeting their friends and professors, visiting the dining hall―all will help you visualize where your freshman is and what they are doing during those times when the pang of missing them is particularly sharp. Bite your tongue about the cleanliness of their room, the piercing and tats of their new boyfriend or girlfriend and the fact that they confess to ordering only pizza on the dining plan. Practice minding your own business. You’ll need that skill for the rest of their lives.

Congratulate yourself: You raised a child to adulthood. They didn’t get hit by a bus. You didn’t kill them. They are in college, not rehab. Celebrate this milestone with a fabulous night out on the town, a few deep tissue massages and a sunny vacation (with umbrella drinks) to be taken while the kid is at school. If you still have a spouse, now is the time to institute candle-lit dinners and rev up your sex life. Think back to your love affair before your child was born and then use your age and wisdom to make it even better―because it’s (finally) just the two of you again.

Stock up on detergent: Cheer up! Your new college student will be home for Thanksgiving, dragging a laundry bag bulging with every piece of clothing they own. Suddenly your tears will dry, and you will feel very needed.

Kitt Walsh owns a web content company, Behind Blogs ( ) and freelances as a feature writer, editor and marketing consultant for magazines, newspapers and private clients around the world.

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