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When You Send Your First Baby Off to College

Some children (and parents) need a lot of time to be able to process and accept the transition from high school to college. And if you have multiple children at home, how is their sibling leaving/moving out going to affect them?

collegeWhen my oldest child was in her junior year of high school, we really got serious about looking at her options and what she wanted to get out of her college experience. We toured every in-state campus to make sure she knew all of her options, and we talked about them a lot. We even went back and visited her choice school a second time to make sure she was comfortable with her decision. I felt this provided comfort to her and to me.

In reality, choosing the college and touring campuses is the fun part. Making the move and leaving your child behind is the incredibly heart-wrenching part. Our family is very close; I had my oldest child when I was 19 years old. I literally do not know what my adult life is like without her in it. She has always been at my side, and I think we were both feeling a bit anxious about this huge change in our lives.

We also had two other children at home, and now their sister was leaving. We talked about it a lot at the dinner table leading up to the big day. Looking at fun things to do when we visit, talking about all the great new adventures she would have in a new city. And most importantly, reassuring everyone that we would still be as close as always. Through this experience, I learned there were a few things that helped us all get through it positively.  

Here are my tips for sending your first born off to college while the rest of the family adjusts and stayed connected:

  • Make it a family affair – On move in day, all of our family piled in the car and drove the few hours to take our new college student to her new dorm. I really felt it was important to let her know that she was supported by all of us. As for her brother and sister, they got to see where their sister would be and have a real place to reference and know that she was somewhere safe – and really fun too.
  • Schedule time for visits – Before we left we set up a schedule of when we would come visit or have her come visit us. It really helped us to have something to look forward to and also to establish some boundaries. The first couple months, I think I went up to see her every other weekend, just to visit for lunch and maybe walk around downtown. I missed her! Then it evolved to once per month (usually around a long weekend). Now that she is a sophomore, she’s got her own plans with her studies, a job and friends. She will visit us every few months.
  • FaceTime! We FaceTimed every-single-day in those first six months. We were used to having family dinner together and talking about our day. FaceTime interaction was so important for our youngest daughter to be able to have her sister to talk to before she went to bed.
  • Let them know you’re thinking about them – sending a funny meme or text message just to say “I love you.”

Most importantly, just be there for them. Pick up that phone every time they call, and tell them you’re proud of them. We’re all proud of our kids, but do we remember to actually tell them that? They may be grown up and living on their own, but they still need you and they need to hear from you that they are doing a good job.

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