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The Next Chapter: A Guide for Parents Sending Their Kids to College

Updated: Oct 14, 2023

A Guide for Parent Sending Kids off to College.

As a parent, sending your child off to college signifies a considerable shift in your life. It's not just a rite of passage for your child, but also a transformation in your parenting journey. This stage can evoke a potpourri of emotions - pride at your child's achievements, anticipation for their future, and perhaps a pang of melancholy as you confront the changing dynamics at home. While this transition can be emotionally challenging, it also presents an opportunity for personal growth and self-discovery.

This comprehensive guide offers five key strategies to support your college-bound child, as well as extensive advice on managing and embracing your own emotional journey through this new life chapter:

1. Promote Their Independence, Cultivate Your Own

As you prepare your child for their newfound independence, you're also embarking on a unique journey to redefine your identity outside of an 'active' parental role. Encourage your child to manage personal tasks, like budgeting or making doctor's appointments. Their growing autonomy can mirror your own; this is an opportune time to delve into personal pursuits. Whether it's an art class you've been curious about, a book club you've been meaning to join, or a fitness regimen you wish to kickstart - seize the moment to explore these passions.

2. Build and Rely on a Support Network

As your child develops their community on campus, it's critical for you to have a support system as well. Connect with other parents undergoing a similar transition. Parent groups—both local and online—offer understanding, advice, and shared experiences that can be invaluable during this time. You can find solace in shared stories and benefit from advice on how others navigated this life stage.

3. Reinvest in Your Relationships

With your daily routines shifting as your child leaves for college, you have the opportunity to strengthen and renew your other relationships. Rekindle the romance with your spouse or partner, plan activities that you both enjoy, or take up a project together. This quality time can strengthen your bond. If you have other children at home, this could be an excellent opportunity to cater to their unique interests. And your friendships outside of parenthood need not be neglected - catching up with friends, attending social gatherings, or just spending quality time can provide a refreshing change.

4. Establish Healthy Boundaries

The parent-child relationship evolves when your child moves to college, and establishing healthy boundaries becomes vital. You'll need to balance your desire to be involved with their need for autonomy. Discuss and set up communication guidelines - a regular check-in might work for you, but ensure that it still gives them room to grow. Remember, these boundaries are not just for their benefit but also for you to engage in self-care and other interests.

5. Celebrate the Change

Your child moving on to college is a testament to your successful nurturing and dedication over the years. Recognize this milestone and celebrate the changes it brings. This could mean going on a long-awaited trip, or simply enjoying the peace and quiet at home. A positive outlook can make this transition not only manageable but enjoyable.

6. Stay Active

Regular physical activity is essential not just for physical health, but also for emotional well-being. Exercise releases endorphins, known as 'happy hormones', which alleviate stress and boost mood. Find a routine that works for you – it could be jogging, swimming, gardening, or dancing - anything that gets you moving and brings you joy.

7. Ask for help if needed

It's okay to seek help if the transition becomes overwhelming. Therapists are trained to help you navigate through your feelings, provide you with coping mechanisms, and guide you towards acceptance and growth. Remember, seeking help is not a sign of weakness, but a proactive step towards mental health.

Sending your child off to college is undeniably a significant shift, but it can also be a time for new beginnings. With a focus on personal growth, emotional well-being, and embracing change, you can navigate this journey not as a difficult farewell, but as a celebration of a new, exciting chapter in your life and your child's. Remember, every end is a new beginning. Be gentle with yourself and the team at Gooding Wellness is always here if you need us.

Gordon Gooding, LCSW


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