PREPARING TO SEND A CHILD TO COLLEGE

Life is constantly changing.

From growing up to moving to another area, to changing schools, to leaving home, to getting married, to having children. You can measure just how fast life flies by by watching your children grow.

We’re getting ready to send our Son #4 away to college. I recently read an article written by Maria Shriver entitled “The Power of Presence” that so perfectly expresses how to be present for this important time.

I don’t want to miss a minute of Son #4s last year living in our home, being a part of everything we do as a family.

And by the way, just because we’ve been through this three other times, the pain, fear, excitement, joy, loss is not any less than the first time we did this. Son #4 is a unique, wonderful person who has definitely made a mark on our hearts and we will miss his laugh, sarcasm, wisdom, intelligence about all things sports, history, geography. I will miss when he walks into a room that I’m in just to share about something he read or a bit of trivia he’s excited about. The tears are welling up just typing this.

Let’s wipe the tears away and move on…..

I thought I’d share some thoughts on preparing the college-bound man/child (or woman/child) and us parents for this exciting but pretty stressful time.

Communication

Share your feelings about him leaving for college. Let him talk about what he’s going through. I think this is a very confusing time for them as they fight for their independence but still need their parents at the same time. Being on their own for the first time can be both scary and exciting. And it’s also difficult for the parents to let go but still feel that they have some control over the safety and well-being of their child. Talk about all of it. Crying may accompany any of these conversations.

Start Letting Go

Most of my kids were rarely home during their senior year of high school. They wanted to spend all their free time with their friends. I think it was a way of preparing us for the day when they wouldn’t be home any more. Treasure the times that they are home. Encourage them to spend a little time with the family, too. Thankfully, Son #4 is more of a home body so I’m enjoying the time we have together.

Ask Questions

What are his plans for the future? What classes does he want to take? What extracurricular activities is he interested in? This is a great time to ask about alcohol/drug use and talk about your expectations. What kind of friends will he be with at college? What are his fears/anxieties? What is he excited about it? How can we the parents help with any of his questions?

Be There

I am constantly reminding all of my children that their dad and I are ALWAYS here for them. If they need to talk, cry, yell, pray they can always pick up the phone/hop on the computer. Skype is a God-send nowadays. Just seeing a familiar face can be comforting. One phone call we received from one of our boys occurred when we were in the middle of dinner. The LOML said that we could skype after dinner. Our son said he just broke up with his girlfriend. We stopped eating dinner, turned on the skype and we cried together. The next day, we loaded everyone up in the Suburban and drove three hours up the NC mountains to be with our heartbroken son. Our children need to know that no matter what, we are always here for them. ALWAYS!

Prepare

Son #4 is going to the same college as two of his older brothers so we’ve been to the campus numerous times. But college tours and open houses will help lessen the anxiety of the unknown.  Meeting professors, walking through the dormitories, driving around the college town so they know where things can be found (places to eat, Walmart, grocery stores). This is where we open a bank account for them on campus and teach them money issues if you haven’t already. Teach them how to do their own laundry if you haven’t already. We were always very bad about that one!

Encourage

Encourage your child to get involved in church, groups, extracurricular activities, getting a job and meeting new people. This is some of the most exciting times of their lives as they make lifelong friends and try to figure out what they want to do when they grow up. Besides classes, they will have free time to have some fun (or to get into some trouble). Encourage them to keep busy doing constructive things.

Remember

The best way that I can think of to reminisce about the past, laugh, cry, and just treasure the memories is pictures. I make all my kids three photobooks~ 1) elementary school, 2) middle school, and 3) high school. Each book is loaded with memories of past birthday parties, family vacations, special occasions. I send my kids to college with the books so if they ever feel homesick, they can look at the books, see familiar faces, remember their family and friends.

Since our children were born, we have been teaching them how to leave our home and be independent adults. Hopefully, we’ve also taught them kindness, thoughtfulness, responsibility, conscientiousness, and how to make good choices. This is where the rubber meets the road. We’re pushing them out of the nest and they need to choose to fly.

The last one is what I think is the most important one. We as parents find it very difficult to let go of our children. It causes a lot of anxiety and worry. But I want to let you know one thing that I believe strongly. We really never had complete control of our children. We could have lost them in an instant at any time. Who does have complete control of our children and EVERYTHING is God.

Pray

We need to give the safety of our children up to God. He loves them more than we do (which I can’t comprehend but I truly know) and He will protect them. Let your kids know that they are always prayed over. Let them know that if they are worried or stressed about something, give it to God.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7

I will be full of anxiety, sadness, awe, gratefulness, and love as I leave Son #4 in his dorm room this fall. Instead of seeing the eighteen year old, deep voiced, independent young man, I will be picturing the little two year old who, when he fell and scraped his knee, would run up to me, his mom, for comfort, a kiss, and hug.

I hope if you’re sending a child to college this fall, that you will enjoy the process as well as feel like you’ve accomplished something amazing. You’ve raised a wonderful child who now is going to be on their own where they will use all the skills that you have taught them. You did a great job!!

Love y’all,

Linda