Last August, we experienced our first dose of empty nest as we moved one of our girls into a college dorm. I wrote about it here.
This past weekend we repeated the same journey. With a much less loaded minivan we helped move my stepdaughter into the dorm. On this trip, Instead of a knot twisting in my stomach, I felt peace and excitement for her upcoming year.
At the dorm we greeted the now familiar staff, smiled at the other parents and gave imaginary hugs to the moms of newbie students trying to hold it together and not cry in front of their child.
This year is different because we now know what to expect. A year’s worth of experiences under our belts helped us to arrive at this confident attitude.
So, what words can I offer to this year’s newbie parents after my first year experience of empty nest?
It’s okay to be sad. Acknowledge your sadness. Cry. You and your student are going through a huge developmental milestone. It would be weird not to feel anything. Also, acknowledge if you begin to feel happiness or excitement for having more time to yourself! That’s allowed!
Your child will return to you. As long as dirty laundry exists, you will see your child again! (Or at least their unwashed clothes!) You might even be surprised how a weekend visit disrupts your plans!
Your child will now know more than you do. Be prepared. It will no longer matter that you hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, much less a post doc degree in the school of life…your child has been participating in thought provoking discussions learning new fangled ideas and better ways to live. Suddenly you know nothing. That new sophisticated attitude is also a developmental milestone, but bless! Jesus be near me.
Your child will need you but in different ways. Even though they are independent, your student still needs your emotional, spiritual as well as financial support. Supporting your student is a little trickier as they want to be independent and not get grilled about classes, lectured or told what to do.
I have learned to let my stepdaughter lead the conversation, listen with my heart as well as my ears and suggest advice only if I believe that’s what she’s needing…another voice, another perspective concerning the situation. Sometimes your best move is to step back and let your child make their own decision even if it’s one you wouldn’t choose for them. Growing Up 101.
Be your child’s biggest advocate. Advocate doesn’t mean cheerleader. Although we certainly cheer on our student, we take on a different role when we advocate for her. An advocate supports the person as a whole, or as the profs say in college…globally. Sometimes to be your child’s best advocate, you must tell them No. Not the easiest conversation to have with your learning to adult child, but maybe the most necessary. That’s when the adult part of you kicks in overriding the best friend part of you.
Your child is equipped to begin the task of college! Don’t panic. What you’ve poured into your child since their birth won’t suddenly evaporate. There will be challenges and there will be triumphs but your student is ready!
Let your student soar!
Any seasoned college parents out there? What advice would you share to first time college parents? Comment below, I’d love to learn from you as well!