10 tips for sending your kids back to college

10 tips for sending your kids back to college. Yep, it’s that yucky time of year.

It’s happening again. My kids keep leaving home. Why does this always hurt? I’m proud and happy and sad and sick to my stomach.

I always think I’m getting better at this process of separating from my children, but maybe I’m just better at pacing my pain and mentally preparing myself for the leaving-day amputation. And then again, maybe I haven’t improved at all.

It helps to stay busy. We’re searching for all those items stashed away in cabinets, closets, and in the attic, not to mention the items I re-introduced into our regular lives the last time they came home. The tape, the scissors, towels, bins. Now I’m looking for it all and wondering where everything is.

Given the pandemic and at-home learning, I readjusted to seeing my collegiate kids all the time. We navigated the new world of adult kids working and learning from home, keeping their own hours and schedules, meeting for family time. Seeing them and watching their lives in action. It’s tiring and thrilling. Part of me wants my easier schedule back. But my heart aches now that it’s happening.

I feel the familiar stone in the pit of my stomach. They will drive away, and we will be again relatively uninformed about their day-to-day lives.

As it happens with each of them, we will miss their humor, affection, and perspective. As much as they hog the T.V., we will miss watching what they’re watching. My husband will lose his golf partners. I will lose lung-emptying hugs and smaltzy requests for home-baked cookies.

I can still picture each baby face and hear each baby belly-laugh. I can smell the talcum powder if I work at it. Yet even as I breathe in my memories, I still experience the present. Bearded faces and broad shoulders. Deep man laughter and witty banter. The musky scent of man shampoo. How quickly the years have passed us.

Each boy is still my baby, yet each is also a man. What a curious oxymoron for a mother.

As time has shown, all those details will draw them homeward from time to time. The memory of grilled pork chops and fetticine alfredo will lure them back to my kitchen and back onto my couch after dinner. They’ll come for Brioche French toast and Belgian waffles and homemade cinnamon rolls and chocolate chip cookies and ice cream runs. They will always come for free dinners out.

I send out this message to all mothers of adult college-aged children: you lovely, tearful readers have my best and non-judgmental motherly sympathies, especially for you first-time college-senders.

Separation from your children is painful. No embarrassment over that. It just hurts.

10 tips for when your kids go back to college:

  • Release them with a happy face; they take their cues from you. Be excited.
  • Go to their rooms and pray for them, before and after they leave. Don’t promise that college will be easy. Inspire them to succeed.
  • Give yourself some time to grieve the loss and welcome a new era. You’re both stronger when they mature.
  • Start a fun, new routine, like watching T.V. whenever you want, canceling dinner on a whim, fixing food they hate but you love.
  • If you’re married, recapture the blissful non-routine of newlywed life, without the newlywed drama. If your’e not married, go on a date.
  • Repurpose their closets, bedrooms, whatever. It’s your house. Avoid making their space a shrine (that makes the hurt linger).
  • Set a schedule to touch base them with, but don’t demand or expect a daily check-in. They need to break free from you.
  • Establish financial and scholastic boundaries and expectations. They might have to learn some life lessons the hard way. That’s okay.
  • Create and dream for yourself. You are also entering a new era of life.
  • Encourage them to find a Christian community and check up on their spiritual growth. A lack of spiritual growth develops problems in all the other areas of their lives.

Don’t let yourself wallow in the suffering. A college-bound student speaks of parental success. It marks one of many milestones. You have created an adult who can survive without his mother. That is a great feat.

And even better, when he returns, he will bring a new appreciation for all the other things you managed to accomplish while you were teaching him to be independent.

Congratulations, moms and dads. Well done.

this is an update of an original blog published in 2017. The college-bound children have changed, but the heartache and pride remain the same.

Here are some others:

My achey-breaky heart–it’s college time again

How to embrace the change you don’t really want

The 2020 Back to School Mom

How to handle your sadness