So your kid is going off to college and you're dreading it. Every time you walk past his or her room, all you can see are the bags from Target or Walmart filled with towels, extra long twin sheets, pillows, socks, a shower caddy and Ramen noodles.
Your heart is breaking, right?
Bad news: there's nothing right now that will take that lump in your throat away.
Good news: that feeling won't last long.
We learn that most of the time what we dread about any foreboding life change, is not the change itself, but the impending nature of it.
Your kid is about to leave you. The kid, who at age three wouldn't even let you go to the john by yourself, is now going to be able to undo all that you have taught him or her. Eat your vegetables. Don't talk to strangers. Do your homework. Go to bed.
No doubt behind that air of exhilaration your teen is giving off, you know he or she is a little anxious, too. And that fuels your angst even more.
You envision your kid sitting alone on some extra long dorm bed that required special sheets you had to hunt down. That moment in June, when you were complaining about those stupid linens as some kind of conspiracy between higher education and the big box stores, will give way to this moment in August when all you will want is to hear that toddler screaming on the other side of that bathroom door.
Bad news: a variation of this scene will happen on move in day.
Good news: move in day moves on and so will your kid.
Daughters will keep in contact more often than sons. But kids these days love to stay connected -- even to their parents. Skype, text and emails ease our hovering generation into this new uncharted territory of not being needed on a daily basis even if for the last few years it's been only to provide food and shelter.
Now you are reduced to writing a check or filling out a FAFSA form to give them those basic needs.
But your kid isn't the only one getting an education. You must now become versed in a thing or two.
Here's what I've learned from having two kids dare to move on after high school and do quite well despite all my attempts to keep them needy and dependent on their mom.
Syllabus on Letting Go of Your Kid 101:
1. Give them space. Let them establish communication and be okay with how often or how little they make the effort. (You will be surprised at how frequently they want to talk to you now.)
2. Understand that your role is changing. Setting rules now gives way to establishing expectations that they learn to be healthy, independent thinkers and doers.
3. Ask how classes are going, but don't demand a report on grades. Simply let them know if they are flunking they should tell you, otherwise let it be. (To this day I have never asked about college grades from my kids.)
4. Don't respond to every Facebook photo they post. Believe me, they aren't posting that photo for your benefit anyway.
5. Show them you are independent from them. Like a clingy boyfriend, parental neediness is unattractive. Explore one new thing for yourself now that your brain isn't completely consumed with being their parent. Being too busy to immediately answer a phone call or text from them because you're too engaged being you again sends them a great message about navigating changes in life.
6. Reinvent their bedroom. This doesn't have to be a major overhaul. Ease your way into it by getting a new comforter or pictures that you like. Think about a new paint color. You'll be looking at that room far more than they will from now on.
7. Send a care package. Include a simple note that says enjoy. You'll have fun gathering some of their favorite items. They'll appreciate the goods and that it came without any parenting strings or advice attached. Don't do this often as it defeats #5.
Bad news: this isn't an easy class.
Good news: Embrace your kid by letting go. You'll see that college can be an incredible journey. Who knows, your kid might even enjoy it, too.
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