By Guest Blogger Teresa McHugh
Whether it is your first child or last child going off to college, you can expect a plethora of mixed emotions to come your way. I know because I’ve been there … four times. With each departure came a wave of emotions that usually began with anxiety but ultimately led to pride and joy. While each of us parent differently, we all inevitably have to face the moment when our children leave to hopefully do what we raised them to do: become independent. What I know now, and can share with certainty, is that it is time for us as parents to let go.
For me, the fear of change was far worse than the change itself. I was the mama bear who wanted to keep all my kids close to home. I spent so much energy feeling anxious, sad, worrying about my children, and not to mention, my own impending loneliness. On the contrary, I saw friends joyful and excited to send their child off to college. While no emotion is wrong, embracing the change was a far better use of energy than fighting the inevitable. Share your worry with your kids but send them off knowing you are far more excited for their new chapter and your next chapter will follow.
Younger siblings may experience heightened emotions as well. One of my younger children began to distance herself from her sister as she prepared to go away to school. There was jealousy over new purchases for bedding, portable plastic drawers, organizers and the rest of supplies needed to outfit a dorm room. Outbursts and tears were the underpinnings of her own feelings of hurt and sadness over the realization that her big sister was leaving home. However, with the never ending stream of snapchats, texts and Instagram messaging, it is easier than ever to stay connected. During the first few weeks of school, space is key for everyone. Let your children establish a new rhythm. Allow them to rely on the coping skills that they have learned which will help them when it is their turn to go away to school.
Older children will pave the way for younger siblings and are likely to become role models. Encourage your college freshman to share the reality of coursework, expectations from professors, homework hours and the importance of time management. However, some college experiences like underage drinking should not be highlighted, as some information may be too much too soon for younger siblings to handle. Relationships may drift with newly found independence, but home will always be home and often, over time, parents and siblings will become more appreciated.
I spent 25 years as a stay at home mom while my husband traveled weekly. The thought of becoming an empty nester was terrifying. Every chapter is different and each has its own sets of positives. Use this time to look ahead and fill your calendar for the coming September. Dust off that tennis racket, sign up for cooking classes and make sure to include nighttime activities because (pro-tip) evenings are when the house is most quiet. If all your kids are out of the house this is a good time to reconnect with your spouse … but that is a whole other article!
As cliché as it sounds, this truly is the beginning of a new chapter in your life. Do not doubt yourself or what is to come. As parents we naturally develop skills that can easily transition into the workforce if that is the chosen route. Take your own advice that you shared with your kids and embrace life’s new adventures. You too must jump, perhaps get bumped and bruised along the way, in order for your parachute to open and allow you to soar! Enjoy the ride!
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