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How to Say Goodbye to College-Bound Kids

Jul 27, 2011 at 10:57 AM Chime in now

Say goodbye to college student


iVillage Moms Weigh In:

One of the things that bothered me the most when my son left for college was that his room looked so.....empty....so unlived in. As my daughter prepares to leave in two weeks, she has commented that she wants to leave her room looking like her room, so that when she comes home she won't feel like she's staying in someone else's space. I like that, and I'm glad she feels that way. This way when I walk by her room, it'll still have pictures out of her and her friends, posters on the wall, pillows on the bed, etc. I know that it will reassure me that she isn't gone forever, she's just away and will be home now and then.
-- nancyws119

What will I miss the most? I don't know ... seeing their faces every day ... knowing they're safe at home at night ... hearing about their lives on a regular basis...
-- georapper

I've bid 3 of my 4 goodbye in the past 3 years, though not through sending them off to college -- I send mine off to the US military. All I can say about how to cope: I never wash their pillowcase after they go. Then I always have something that smells like them, even when they're far, far away. When one of my DSs spent time in Iraq last year, he was able to come home for a week before he had to leave -- and the first thing I did after he and his wife left the room they shared while they were here was nab the pillowcase that smelled like him! LOL
-- bunnierose

Well mine have all finished college now, but when the last one -- our son -- left, he got us a dog. Not crazy about it at first but once he was gone I totally understood why he did it. He said the dog was for him but I think he got her to keep us company -- and that she did. She got all the love and attention that used to go to the 3 kids when they were home.
-- firsttimegram

When my last one went away to university I was working and I also took up doing some painting again and things like that and joined a few activity clubs -- I think this helped.
-- janethom

When our DS left for college, I was a mess when it came time to say goodbye. That was okay because it was just our family in his dorm room at the time. He was excited, and I think he chalked my emotions up to my being "a girl." But this time I'm sending my baby, my DD off to school. She and I are very close, and our emotions run about the same very often. The other day she said to me, "Please don't be a mess when you get ready to leave, because if you are, then I will be too." What wonderful instruction from DD! And so, when the time comes, I will not cry and be a mess. I will pull all of my strength together and show her that college is a new beginning, and an adventure. After I leave.....then I will fall apart.
-- nancyws119

Even though it hurts, it is actually better when they don't call you. It means they are doing fine and making new friends!
-- mom_julsie

It's tough leaving our kids at school. There is no gettng around it. Having gone through it once already, I thought it would be easier the second time around and it was, up to a certain point. Driving to school, setting up his room and leaving him were easier than the first time around. Knowing that he was so happy, had friends already and that the school was relatively close to home, made it easier than when we left our DD 4 years ago. However, it was just as difficult when we got home. I've been crying since late last night. I know he's happy and that helps trememdously, but I just miss him terribly. I'm dying to call him, but I won't. As someone said, no news is good news and so I'll wait for his call.
-- mily12

Don't dwell on the fact that your child is gone -- stay busy. Look forward to the times when he/she will come home for vacations. Thanksgiving and Christmas really aren't that far away.
-- frencher

We have 1 room in the house set aside for college prep. Each kid is responsible (hopefully) for making sure they have what they need in their pile. We keep checking lists and trying to keep up.
-- scjmom89

My standard advice is to stock up on kleenex and waterproof mascara! Accept that you are likely going to weep often in the days before your CS leaves and for a couple of weeks after the departure, and be prepared. It's normal. It's okay. It helps to relieve some of your tension and emotion. If it turns out that you don't cry much, then lucky you! I think it is okay to tell your CS that you will miss him/her, just not to the point where they start feeling guilty for leaving or they want to get away from you. They like to know that they will be missed but I don't think we parents are supposed to be excessive about anything except giving them money!
When you get to the dorm, drop the stuff off and maybe help with a minumum of set-up but then leave. Your CS probably wants to start this new adventure as an independent adult and start bonding with the roommate. If your CS wants your advice s/he will call to ask for it.
Let your CS take the lead in how often to communicate. Email or IM might work best. Your CS will probably be very busy the first few weeks with mandatory dorm meetings, getting used to college-level workload, making new friends and feeling independent, and may not have much time to touch base with home. If there is a real problem, or when the homesickness kicks in (around 4-6 wks?) you will hear from them.
If you can leave your CS' bedroom alone that's great but if you need to let a sibling take it, make sure you talk to your CS about that before they leave. Not a very welcome surprise when they come home for Thanksgiving break! You may want to give the room a thorough cleaning but if it makes you too sad then put it off until you are feeling better about your CS' absence.
Personally, I cried a lot for a few days after DS left for freshman year, and cried just a little after he left after each break. Second year there was less crying and by third year my eyes just got a little misty each time he left. By fourth year he was referring to his apartment in the college town as "home" and I knew that he had made an important transition. While I was sorry that he wasn't at home I could see that he loved his life at college, his friends there and all of the things that he was learning and experiencing. My joy in seeing him happy was greater than my sadness at not having him near me, and I was able to let him go knowing that I had done my job.
-- cl-elc11

I, too, have just sent my first-born to college and am having a bit (okay, more than a bit) of a hard time with it. We followed him up to his school (only a 3-1/2 hour drive from us), helped him get settled in a bit, and then said our good-byes. I didn't cry and haven't really cried since he's been gone (I did most of that at the end of his senior year and the beginning of the summer, for some reason), but I miss him terribly and wish he'd call me! LOL... I know it's supposed to mean he's doing well, etc., etc., but I'm dying to talk to him, to ask him how everything's going, to see if he likes his roommate and the cafeteria food... but I don't want to pester him with questions, so I'm waiting patiently until he calls. I did send an email asking some questions, but am not even sure he's checking his email yet, since he's never really had to check it up 'til now...
-- yarnaholic1963

How could I have forgotten the advice I received from an elderly aunt four years ago when my DD went off to college? It helped me then and I hope it helps you now. My aunt told me to look at it from our kid's point of view. This is what they want, what they worked so hard to acheive. It's a privilege for them to be able to attend college. It's a growing point in their lives -- a positive point. So, if possible (and yes, it's difficult at times) we should try to focus on how lucky they are and how they've gotten this far and how they are achieving one more goal.
-- mily12



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