She Left. Preparing To Leave Your Teen At College.
I sat quietly in my seat on the plane ride back home. I was numb. I tried to bury myself in movies but I couldn’t concentrate. It all seemed so unreal, almost surreal.
We had just dropped our last child off at Babson College. I knew I should be grateful and give God thanks. She was going to a great college. We were actually very pleased with her degree program and I had been super excited that she got accepted into that particular college. We just didn’t expect it to be so soon. The house which was usually filled with laughter was now eerily quiet.
It didn’t help that we had to leave sooner than expected. We thought we would stay for five days but the school “encouraged” us to leave after two days. I still wanted to hang out, not willing to let her go, but my daughter said “Mom, it’s kind of awkward”. (That we would stay for five days, when all the other parents were leaving.) She was right. We left. We are not “helicopter parents” by any means but this was “our baby”. She needed us; or is it that we needed her? I got home and cried quietly.
She texted us that evening to make sure we got home safely. I was ecstatic when she called the next day. She sounded happy, excited about being in college. Was it my imagination or did she already sound a little more mature? My husband and I both relaxed after that. She was going to be fine! We had faith! We let her go. Now, how do we deal with the empty nest years?
1. Grieving for the departure of your college student is normal.
Grieve if you have to. It is not easy to let go after living with someone who depended on you for 18 years. Cry if you must, but then let it go, and look at the bigger picture. Your child has started a new phase in life, they are not lost. You just have a different relationship.
2. Give your teens their space. Communicate on their terms.
Communicate with your teens, but let them take the lead. Let them choose the timing and the topic of conversation. They are learning to be adults now… right? Don’t call all the time. As we learned from the college orientation team, these new college students find it annoying, and they feel pressured. Teens these days prefer to text anyway, or to use Snapchat. So keep in touch, but don’t overdo it.
3. Encourage focus, accountability, and discipline in your teen.
Before your teen leaves for college, let them know that grades and behavior in college are still important. Encourage your child to be open. Listen, but avoid being judgmental. Otherwise, your child might clam up, and you won’t know what is going on. Listen and ask questions. Help your teen find solutions to their own questions. Encourage them to use the resources available to them in college, and to learn to think for themselves.
4. Embrace the new season of parenting.
After crying, and accepting your new life, embrace the change. This is a new beginning for you as well. Join that club you always wanted to join, but never had the opportunity to. Read the book gathering dust on your shelf. Be good to yourself, and travel or pick up a new hobby. Reconnect with your significant other, your sweetheart, and rediscover your relationship.
5. Parent your teen as a young adult.
Enjoy your children when they come home to visit or when you visit them. Remember, they are nearing adulthood, but they are not quite there yet. Correct gently. Learn to laugh together and talk together. Savor this new relationship. You could be looking at the next CEO, or inventor or star.
As you hesitantly embark on the college years with your teen, remember that these are exciting times for both you and your teen. Enjoy your time away from your teen. Love wisely. Encourage gently. Seize this opportunity to start a whole new relationship with your young adult child.
A big Thank You to Babson College Orientation Team for helping parents and teens in this significant transition. What a wonderful job you did making it easier for us to let go.