Guest Post by Sherri Maat
Is your child leaving for college for the first time? How are you coping? As a parent of two boys, we sent our eldest off to college a couple of years ago. I’m here to tell you that it was a huge transition for everyone involved. My son Hunter attends a college that is 1,875(!) miles away from our home. When Hunter departed for college my husband, our younger son and I had to find our “new normal” and it wasn’t always an easy transition.
When the eldest child goes off to college, everyone in the family has to learn a new rhythm of daily activities. Because there are only four of us in our immediate family, Hunter’s departure meant a quarter of the family unit was gone from our daily life. We all struggled in our own ways with Hunter’s absence. From a maternal perspective, it was incredibly difficult for me. Especially at the beginning, I missed Hunter so much that it felt like my heart was breaking.
[Related: College Bound: How To Cope When A Child Leaves Home.]
Eventually, we all did manage to adjust to life with a family member all the way across the country. Are you struggling with a similar feeling of the nest being not quite as full as it once was? If you are reading this and you are the one sending your child off to college for the first time, here are some coping tips that worked for me:
- Journey through not around. Avoid filling your ache with busyness or other unhealthy habits. We need to feel the hurt and feel the healing to feel the joy again.
- Cry, wail if you must . . . then wipe your tears, pull up your big girl britches and move forward one day at a time. If you find you are struggling to move forward and are sad more than usual, talk with your physician or counselor. There is no shame in saying you are struggling.
- Volunteer to help a mom with young kids so she can get a break and you can enjoy the love of being around little ones again.
- Find ways to laugh. Watch a funny YouTube video or go to a comedy show. Laughter is often the best medicine.
- Pat yourself on the back (literally) and tell yourself (out loud) “Good Job, Mom!” The fact that your child has the confidence to go off to college is the fruit of a mom’s job done well.
- Video chat with your child. There is something about seeing your child (even if only on the screen) that eases my mommy heart and reassures me, “Hunter’s alright.” Be sure to ask your child when an appropriate time would be to hop on a chat. A once a week check-in is reasonable, but beyond that should be at the child’s initiative. It is not your child’s responsibility to meet your aching mom needs.
Here’s something I discovered about sending your eldest off to college: just about the time you figure out your new rhythm with your child away at college, they come home for college break. But that’s ok. Because it’s a joyous day when your heart feels full and everything is right with your world—having your whole family back under one roof again.
About the author: Sherri Maat is a wife, mom of two, and lives in Michigan.
For more resources, visit out page, Back to School: How to Care Well.