You knew it was going to happen; in fact, you were very happy it was happening. Still, there's a deep emotion akin to the sorrow that many parents feel as they drive off campus, leaving their child to fend for themselves as he or she starts their freshman year of college.
Maybe you are thinking: this child may never return home again. Or, perhaps you fear that the safety and welfare of your child could be in danger and you have no way now to protect them. Some parents worry that their child will meet someone who will “take them away” from the family or worse, convince them to leave school and get married.
These are common fears that parents feel along with subtler feelings of being abandoned, no longer loved or needed, cut off from the details of your child's life, and the inability to monitor and influence the day-to-day activities and events in your child's life.
If you had a good relationship with your child prior to college, you will have a good relationship while your child is going to school too. If you didn't have a good relationship with your child, college may actually end up improving relations.
One of the reasons it is so worthy to go away to school is the child has to be become his or her own advocate and learn how to care for the basic needs that might have been done for them by their parents. Children who never picked up their underwear from the floor are now learning about washers and dryers, the cost of doing laundry, and the work involved.
Many times college students come home with a greater appreciation for mom and dad and as they mature that appreciation gets higher and higher.
Parents, even the best of them, may feel slightly sad as they leave their children at their dorm or apartment to start a new life as a college student. Keep in mind, your child probably has that very same pit-of-the-stomach ache that you do. Your child is excited to start their academic career but afraid of the unknown, too.
One of the ways both parents and students can make that last goodbye after the students are settled in and the parents are just about to drive away is this: Remind each other when your next talk or visit will be. A casual: I'll call you next week if I don't hear from you before that; Or don't forget, I'll be sending you your flight tickets in about six weeks so you can fly home for Thanksgiving; Or “We'll drive up in two weeks for Parents' Day, see you then!” helps both you and your child.
Once home, do not indulge in sitting on your child's bed and crying, do something positive instead. Make a plan to send a care package, make your list of what you are going to include. Or write a diary about what you are feeling so you can share this, if you care to, with your child later on.
Cell phones, texting, email, and even snail mail are quick and easy ways for parents and children to remain connected. Email some photos to your child that will remind them of home and maybe they'll share some photos of dorm life with you.
Talk to people who have children who have gone away to college and you'll see that a physical distance doesn't have to create an emotional distance.
Although you have a reason to feel sad when you've just left your child at college, don't allow it to invade your life. Have friends for dinner; take the dog for a walk; continue to live your life so when your child calls and says: “Hey Mom, How are you? What's new?” You'll have something interesting to say.