7 thoughts all parents have when their kids leave for college

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Getty Images | Drew Angerer

Summer is quickly winding down and the moment many parents have been working toward for 18 years is finally about to happen. In 2017, more than 20 million students went off to college. The newest crop of freshmen are about to hit campus for the first time, which means millions of parents are about to say goodbye to their child. As the mom of a college junior who goes back in less than a week, you would think I’m an old pro at this transition. This is my third time at this rodeo, after all. But in many ways, when my oldest daughter drives away with her car packed to the roof, I guarantee there will be a knot in my stomach and a lump in my chest.

If you’re on the verge of seeing your child off to college, don’t be surprised if you experience any (or all) of the following thoughts and emotions during this milestone accomplishment.

1. ‘Have I Done Enough?’

Who knew 18 or so years would go by so fast? In the blink of an eye, your child went from being a baby to deciding where they were going to study for the next four (or more) years. Parents often worry at this point about whether they’ve taught their kids enough. Whether they’ve adequately prepared them for the big world out there. You may not feel you’ve taught your kid enough life lessons, yet. But it’s important to remember one thing: You’ve laid the foundation. Many of the world’s most important lessons can only be taught through experience alone.

college photo
Getty Images | Drew Angerer

2. ‘How Will I Know What’s Going On In My Child’s Life?’

You aren’t going to know where they are 24 hours a day. You may get a chance to meet the new roommate but, other than that, you won’t know many of your child’s new friends. You’ll wonder things like: Are they studying? Are they eating enough? The bottom line is that you’ll never have all these answers anymore. You’ll be living in a bit of a black hole when it comes to your child’s academic and personal life. So you have to believe in your college student enough to know they’ll get it together.

college photo
Flickr | technicolor76

3. Fear Of Failure…And Success

One of our biggest fears is seeing our child fail. Sometimes, we do so much to prevent them from failure, we shelter them too much. However, many parents also worry about success for their child. After all, if a child succeeds, it could mean bigger opportunities to go out and explore the world, find new interests and be farther away from home. That can be a tough pill to swallow as a parent, but it’s one we need to face. We need to give our young adults permission to fly, wherever that takes them.

teenagers photo
Getty Images | Drew Angerer

4. ‘Am I Feeling Jealous Of My Own Child?’

Parents jealous of their kids? Yes, it happens, especially when that child is about to head off on one of the greatest adventures in his or her young life. What middle-age person wouldn’t love the chance to re-live at least some of the glory days of college? Watching your child go off to school can cause some twinges of jealousy. But remember, this is your child’s college life, not yours. Let them follow their own path.

university photo
Getty Images | Sean Gallup

5. ‘Why Am I Enjoying My Child Being Gone?’

It’s a dirty little secret most parents of college-age students hate to admit: We start to enjoy having some of our life back! After the sorrow of separation starts to slip away, parents begin to discover that they don’t miss the crammed schedules and daily responsibilities that come with having a child who lives at home. It’s important to remember that feeling this sense of relief does NOT make you a bad parent, nor does it mean that you don’t miss your student. You’re just adjusting to a new life — and there are some perks! But we wouldn’t be parents if we didn’t have a little guilt over it. So acknowledge that guilt and then move on to enjoy your newfound freedom.

beach vacation photo
Flickr | Elliott Plack

6. ‘Will My Student Ever Call Me?’

Believe it or not, it can be a good sign if your child doesn’t call home too often. It usually means he or she is fitting in to the campus scene, making friends, studying and just staying busy! It might be a good idea to establish a weekly call time so you both can check in with one another. Your student may roll her eyes at the thought, but trust me on this: She looks forward to those calls. The first semester, we didn’t hear much from my daughter as she settled in. However, in following semesters, she would actually call home twice a week just to fill me in on what was going on. It’s always great when the child initiates the text or call!


phone call photo
Getty Images | Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno

7.  ‘How Will My Relationship With My Child Change?’

Here’s the truth. Things between you and your college student are going to change: a lot. Your kid is going to learn to be an independent thinker and doer. Some of those changes you’ll like, and others you won’t. But as long as you keep those lines of communication open, it’ll all work out. When your child comes home to visit, expect some discussions on things like curfew (or lack thereof) and not spending as much time with the family as you might like. The harder you try to hold on, the more they’ll try to run away. Show mutual respect for one another as adults, because that’s what your child has become.

I spent a lot of time worrying about how college would affect my connection with my daughter. It turns out, I had nothing to fear. Before my daughter left for college the first time, I still saw her as a kid and she saw me only as her mom. But as she developed more confidence and experienced everything college life had to offer, she began to relate to me on a whole different level. We now connect as adults. Oh, I’m still her mom and that will never change. But we can talk about things in ways that are more meaningful. I’m truly starting to appreciate her voice and viewpoints. Letting her go was one of the best things I could do to help us grow closer.

college photo
Getty Images | Andreas Rentz


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About the Author
Marie Rossiter
Marie is a freelance writer and content creator with more than 20 years of experience in journalism. She lives in southwest Ohio with her husband and is almost a full-fledged empty nest mom of two daughters. She loves music, reading, word games, and Walt Disney World. Visit Scripps News to see more of Marie's work.

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