Saying Goodbye to Your College Bound Teen


saying goodbyeLetting go. It’s never easy. You and your student have worked hard to get to this day. The last year, especially, has been filled with excitement, stress, and anticipation of what the future would bring. The day is now here and you wonder why you ever encouraged her to go away to college. She may not say it, but she is most likely terrified of leaving home and wonders how she will be able to live apart from you. Emotions transition from anticipation to dread to sadness as you drop her off at college and say goodbye.

All the questions

Although it’s hard for the student, it’s incredibly hard for parents. How do you say goodbye? How do you let go after 18 years of nurturing? How can you possibly tell her everything she needs to know? How will she survive without your constant supervision?

If you’ve done your job, and I’m sure you have, she’s ready. She knows how to make the right choices. She knows how to study, stay organized, and set priorities. She knows how to take care of herself and how to ask for help if she needs it. And most importantly, she knows she can call home anytime for your love and support. She will be on her own, but your words and everything she knows about life are imbedded in her mind and when she needs them, she can pull them up at a moment’s notice.

Both my son and daughter can attest to that fact. There were numerous times that they heard my voice say, “Think before you act, make study a priority, and choose your friends wisely.”

Preparing for the inevitable

The last few months have been hard. Tempers have most likely flared. You’ve been frustrated with her lack of concern about preparation. You haven’t understood why she has been pulling away from the family at times. These are all part of her growing independence and her preparation for living on her own. But as much as she pulls away, she still needs you.

Before you leave for college, find a time to discuss how you want to handle move-in day. Does she want you to help move in and leave? Will she need help unpacking or does she want to do it herself? Does she want to have dinner and then say goodbye? Since emotions will run high, it’s best to make a plan in advance, mostly for your sake. If you know what to expect, you will be able to prepare and you won’t feel rejected when she says a quick goodbye.

Saying goodbye

Remember that Parents Weekend is coming up. It won’t be long before you see her again. Don’t make this an overly-emotional goodbye and cry buckets of tears in front of her. If you must, do it in the car on the drive home (that’s what I did). She will already be stressed and overwhelmed with the whole scenario. The last thing she needs is for you to make it difficult for her to say goodbye.

Your heart will break. A part of you is leaving and moving on to adulthood. It’s normal for you to feel all the emotions you are feeling. Just feel them after you say goodbye.

This too shall pass

These were four of my mother’s favorite words. She was right. Time heals and watching her grow, mature, and move toward her future eases the pain of loss. Phone calls, texts, and visits help both of you transition gradually and before long, she will be home for the winter break and the summer.

Only a mother knows how hard this day is. Only a mother feels that loss and emptiness when they wave goodbye and you drive away. Only a mother knows that life has changed forever in your home and in your family. But be encouraged, you are not alone. There are millions of others who have felt what you are feeling and understand your pain. Reach out to them and seek comfort. Believe me, it will help just being able to share your emotions with someone who knows what you are feeling.

Here’s a great group that has helped so many moms deal with this transition:

Join it, read the past posts, and start talking. Saying goodbye to your college bound teen doesn’t have to be the end, it’s just the beginning.

For more insight into the goodbye perspective, read Wendy’s post:

The College-bound Goodbye Perspective

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