mother sending daughter off to college

Dear mom of a freshman coed,

Today's the day. It came faster than you planned on. You dreamed of this day way back when you held that tiny newborn in your arms, but it felt so far away then. It seemed even farther away as you trudged through the long days and nights of dirty diapers and potty training. You threatened that this day would never come when your child colored with permanent marker all over your new bathroom cabinets. And now today as you watch your child turn away and head off to the dorms, you want to push the pause button and stop all of it from happening so fast.

It feels strangely surreal that this day is here. The months leading up to this day have probably held a wide spectrum of emotions and thoughts. You are excited for your child to start this new adventure, but your baby grew up in an instant it seems, and you are pretty sure she is not ready. You wonder, is it my fault that she's not ready? Did I teach her everything she needs to know? Probably not. But you did try. You tried as much as any mom knows how. And let's be honest, after a certain point your child stopped listening to you anyway.

But maybe your child is ready. Lately, your child has been more and more independent. She wants to do things on her own, make her own choices, and be her own person. Yet, some days she volleys between knowing more than the President of the United States and never remembering how much fabric softener to put in the washing machine. So you still wonder if you taught your child enough to get by. Does she know how to budget? Can she make enough meals to get through the week? Can she handle disappointment and rainy days alone? Will she know what to do when someone she loves walks away and never comes back? Will she remember to pay the bills, wash her sheets . . . and most of all, will she remember to call home?

You wonder how leaving home will change your child. Will your child be successful and live a life full of laughter? That is what you've always hoped for her and yet you know there are hard things up ahead. Maybe that is why watching your child leave is so hard. When she comes back, will she still have that youthful laugh? Or will there be a new depth in her eyes that shows she now understands pain, and regret, and all the hard things that make us real.

You know endless experiences await your child, and you don't want her to miss out on it all. You want to see how her life develops and takes shape. You want to see what she will become. You want your child to live her best life! You know that living your best life means taking the sweet with the sour, no matter how sour. You've spent all your mothering days wishing you could shelter your child from all the hard things. Sometimes you did protect her completely. And sometimes, you stepped back and let her figure it out. But letting her figure out the math problem in 3rd grade is so different than figuring out LIFE! And that's why it's hard to let go. But you know your child thinks she's ready, just like you thought you were at her age. So you have to let go. It's time. Even if you don't want it to be.

So today you will share in your child's excitement as she packs her boxes, and as she figures out her new classes. You could give her more advice, but you know your child may not listen right now. You could supply her with more stuff that you think she needs, but you've already given her everything a mother could give. So instead, you just be there for her. You tell your child you love her and remind her to call sometime, or at least text. You'll always be there. She knows that . . . and that is why she is able to go with confidence.

Besides, she'll be home soon enough to visit . . . and she'll need help with her laundry.

Here are a few tips for coping after your child leaves for college.

1. It's OK to be emotional.

Moms, you've been mothering for a long time and so just realize it's okay to feel sad about your child leaving, and it's okay to be happy about it too. Prepare yourself that you may feel a wide range of emotions and it's okay to give yourself time to grieve a little. And there's no reason to feel guilty that you are sometimes glad your child is out of the house too. Both emotions are okay.

2. Distract yourself with something good.

Being busy or immersed in good things can help make the transition easier. Add a few more hours to your work schedule, catch up on a project you've been wanting to get done, take time for that hobby that you really love, or take up a new one. Staying actively engaged in uplifting activities will help the time pass quickly while your child is away and will remind you that life is still very enjoyable (if not even more so than before)!

3. Plan a way to stay in touch.

Talk with your new college student about the best way to stay in touch. Let your child take the lead on this. Do they want to text you every few days, or do they want to call or Facetime one a week? Maybe you could plan a time in the near future to visit each other. This will help you stay connected as they move onto their new stage of life.

4. Keep it all in perspective.

When you feel extra sad about your child leaving home, try to keep a hopeful perspective about your child's future. Remember why you want them to go to college and leave home. Remind yourself of the good things they are learning. Think about how you were also young when you left home, but you figured it out alright. Look at the big picture and keep a hopeful attitude. This attitude will help both you and your child.

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