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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Paulsen, MA, LMFT, RPT-S

The Kids Are Off To College...Now What?

Updated: Sep 12, 2022

“There isn’t a child who hasn’t gone out into the brave new world who eventually doesn’t return to the old homestead carrying a bundle of dirty clothes.” – Art Buchwald

My First Child Is Leaving Home

If your oldest child is about to go to college, you might be feeling sad that it’s the first time your family won’t all be under the same roof at night or you might be wondering if you really taught your child everything they need to know to live on their own. How will they survive?! The answer is simple: they will figure it out. They have to. College is the perfect place to transition from the caregiving of parents to the harshness of the real world. You’ve taught them all you can and trust me, when they need help, you’ll be the first one they call!

What You Can Do After They Move Out:

  • DON’T call your child daily to see how they are doing, let them call you.

  • DO call once a week just to see how they are doing and ask them if they need anything.

  • DON’T criticize the choices they are making, college is about trial and error.

  • DO praise the positive decisions they make or the hard work they are putting in.

  • DON’T criticize their new boyfriend or girlfriend (they’ll end up married to them if you do).

  • DO ask about the people they’ve met and offer to invite their new friends over on the weekend for dinner sometime. Or go visit and take them out for dinner!

  • DO establish clear boundaries and expectations for when they come home to visit (do this before they come home for the first time).

  • DO send a care package during finals week (most colleges will send something home offering to do this for you if you pay for it).

  • DO offer to make their favorite meal when they come home, send some leftovers back with them, and maybe slip $20 in their bag for some gas or late night study food.

My Last Child Is Leaving Home

When it’s time to send your baby off to college or anywhere else they won’t be living with you, you’re officially an empty-nester! This can be an emotional time and it obviously has its challenges but it doesn’t have to be seen as something negative. This new chapter can be an exciting time for you (and your significant other) if you allow it to be.

What To Look Forward To:

  • ENJOY having less laundry to do and fewer dishes to wash.

  • ENJOY not having to cook for so many people every night and a dinner conversation that doesn’t involve teenage antics.

  • ENJOY going out to eat because the bill is so much cheaper now.

  • ENJOY your lower grocery bill… energy bill… water bill…

  • ENJOY a date night with your significant other. Can you remember what it was like YEARS ago before you had kids?!

  • ENJOY total control over the remote.

  • ENJOY going to bed whenever you want and having uninterrupted sleep.

  • ENJOY catching up with an old friend.

  • ENJOY your free nights without basketball games, band concerts, or PTA meetings.

  • ENJOY doing something you used to love or take up a new hobby.

And always remember, they’ll be back! Especially for the holidays or summer vacation!

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