I'll just admit right up front that Grams is a HUGE advocate of sending your kids AWAY to college. That's right, I'm not a fan of college kids living at home and going to school. I'm a firm believer that when kids graduate from high school, it's time to treat them like grown ups. Living in your parent's house while doing the things that college kids do is a recipe for conflict, discontent, and sleepless nights. Yes, I know it's expensive, but it provides an experience that is priceless. Young adults need the freedom and responsibility of making their own decisions and mistakes. Their parents need the liberation of not knowing every single thing these young adults are doing in college.
When we took our oldest to UTSA, a mere two hour drive from home, it was extremely difficult. Okay, truth be told, I cried all the way home. Every time I would get myself under control, Grandad would say something to me and I would start crying all over again. We finally finished the drive in absolute silence, except for my sniffling.
As part of preparing to send her to college, Grams and Grandad attended a parent orientation session. It was only a few hours and was very helpful in letting us know what to expect. As part of that orientation they gave us a schedule that outlined what to expect during first year away at college. It was spot on and I've always wished I had saved it so I could pass it on to my friends. Here's what I remember.
- By Halloween your child will hate college and will want to come home. Don't give in. Make them stick it out at least until mid-term, preferably the entire first year.
- By Christmas, they'll begin to feel a real sense of separation from home. They'll be happy to see their old friends when they come home for Christmas, but they may feel like maybe they don't have so much in common with them any more.
- By Valentine's Day almost all high school romances will be over and done with.
- By Spring Break, your student will love college and wonder what they didn't like before.
Go ahead and let them go ... they will be fine and so will you. Let them make their own decisions. Don't worry about what they're eating. Buy them a meal card so you know they're not going to starve and let them take it from there. Don't worry about what they're wearing. Make sure they have climate-appropriate clothing available, but they have to make their own decisions. College students rarely starve or freeze, but they do often wear pajamas to class and it's really okay. Don't worry about whether they're getting enough sleep or not. Trust me, they're not. But they're young and they have to learn for themselves.
Do something special for them every now and then. For Halloween I shipped my college students boxes filled with Halloween candy. When finals were coming up, I sent them a care package with easy-to-grab healthy snacks like peanut butter, crackers, pretzels, jerky, etc. It made me feel better and it made them feel remembered and loved.
Do something special for yourself. Take a class, host a party, join a club, take a walk. Just do something besides sitting in their room and missing them.
Grams has learned to love our empty nest. Some of the advantages include:
- Grams doesn't lay awake at night listening for kids to come home at all hours.
- I have the sewing/craft room I've always wanted.
- I never have to yell at Grandad to turn down the stereo.
- We have time to spend with friends.
- Grandad hardly ever leaves dirty dishes or dirty clothes all over the house for me to pick up.
- We take grown-up vacations; we only go to amusement parks if we want to go. And we don't have to schedule them around kids and school calendars.
- We each have our own bathroom.
- We watch what we want to watch on television.
And remember, it's not really an empty nest until they take their stuff!