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The Empty Nest: Preparing for a Child Leaving for College

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A child leaving for college means new friends and new experiences.

A child leaving for college means new friends and new experiences.

I didn't really know how to prepare for a child leaving for college. There was so much excitement with my oldest daughter through the college search process, getting college acceptances, choosing a college, and going to orientation. I was so happy about all the great experiences that were ahead for her.

Then one day it hit me that I wasn't going to be there to have those experiences with her. It wasn't going to be like kindergarten through high school when I got to meet all her friends, hear about her day at school, and help her with her homework. She would be over 150 miles away and I'd be lucky to get a phone call a couple times a week.

If you will be facing this scenario soon, I have a few tips that might help with the transition.

Remember: This Is Not the End

First, remember that a child leaving for college isn't a permanent separation. There will be chances to visit campus, holiday breaks, and summer to catch up on all the new experiences your child has been having.

Make sure to visit campus at least once a year, like at Parents Weekend. It's kind of like those open houses they used to have in grade school, and like back then, your child will be excited to show you his or her world.

Spend Some Quality Time Together

Try to plan something fun for the family before your child leaves. On my daughter's last weekend at home, we made her favorite dish and favorite dessert for dinner. Then we watched old home movies. The next day we planned that Mom and Dad would be away, so the kids could spend time alone together, order pizza and watch movies.

Stay Connected

Establish an expectation for calling, emailing, texting, video chats — whatever forms of communication work best. I decided our expectation would be, "We'd like to talk to you once a week, but if you want to talk more often that's okay too. You can text us or email us whenever you want."

Officially pass the decision making to your child. Explain that it is now time to make his or her own decisions. Let your child know you are there to help, if he or she asks for help, but that you are not going to make decisions for him or her.

Move-in day was as hard as I had imagined it would be. There were tears all around. I kept reminding myself that this was such an exciting time for my daughter and that there would be many great experiences ahead. That helped me to focus more on being happy for her, knowing that she has so many great things to look forward to.

Photo Source: Flickr