How to Emotionally Prepare for a Child’s College Departure

By Sylvan Learning

High School

It is time. Very soon you’ll be driving away from a school campus without your son or daughter in the back seat. It feels as if only yesterday they were securely stowed in their car seat.

Even though you’ll have purchased all the necessities and filled out all the paperwork, will you be emotionally prepared to see your student off? Now is a great time to start thinking about how to handle the emotions associated with having a child leave the nest, to make a sort of emotional game plan.

We won’t sugar-coat it. Sending your child off to college can be an incredibly emotional experience. On one hand, there’s an overwhelming sense of pride in and excitement about your children; on the other, there’s the fear and unknowns associated with sending them out on their own.

Though the house may be a bit quieter than you remember it, the most important thing to keep in mind is that this is an awesome time (maybe even one of the best!) for shared growth and great change.

Here are a couple of things to remind yourself of as you prepare for one of the biggest changes in a parent’s life:

  • Dream big. As your children better their future and follow their dreams, this is a great time for you to reconnect with your own! Whether you’ve been meaning to learn that foreign language or have always wanted to try pottery—now is a good time to dive in.
  • Let it out. Worrying about your child’s meal plan, grades, friendships, etc. can be emotionally exhausting. Make sure to take care of yourself and pay attention to your own needs. Keeping a journal or a date with a friend can be a great way to unwind and get some of the worry off your chest.
  • You’ve done well. Remember, you’ve done a good job! We don’t know your child personally, but we’re willing to bet he or she is pretty great. Be confident that you raised an independent child who will be able to thrive and grow in a college environment.
  • Let go a little. Not a lot, just a little. You no longer will be able to dictate the details, so let them eat cake and make their own mistakes. You might just be pleasantly surprised when they “learn their own lesson”—the one you’ve been teaching them for the past 20 years or so.
  • Share the love. Remember those work friends you’ve been meaning to hang with, that husband who desperately deserves a date, your other children?! Ah, yes, now is a nice time to look around, count blessings and spread the love.
  • Still in the dumps? That’s no good. Here are a couple of quickies for kicking the blues: See your all-time favorite band with your all-time favorite girlfriend, laugh loudly at something very silly, get a pet (or maybe a new plant), enroll in a cooking class or volunteer. The options are endless.

Taking the time to create a game plan for emotionally readying yourself to send your child off to school can help you make the most of this transitional time.