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Dear First-Time College Parent

Marlene Kern Fischer

Congratulations on getting to this point! Despite some bumps in the road, you produced a son or daughter who is ready for college — and that’s no small feat.

It’s likely that you’re filled with strong and possibly conflicting emotions: pride in your student and their accomplishments, sadness about leaving them and concern about their ability to navigate what’s ahead. You are also probably exhausted from the logistics involved in getting them and their stuff to campus. The past few weeks have not been easy.

Your student is probably also a bundle of emotions and nerves. If they have been grumpy, know that it’s normal. It’s nothing you said or did; it’s just that this is hard for them, too. If drop off doesn’t go exactly as you anticipated, don’t worry — you‘ll have many other chances to say “goodbye” as well as “hello.” Luckily, this first college goodbye is one of the hardest. It does get easier.

Perhaps you’re reading this and thinking, “Wow, what is she talking about? I’m not sad at all!” You may even be downright relieved that move-in day has finally arrived, especially if the end of summer was difficult. This is fine, too. Own however you feel — there’s no right or wrong.

Although your son or daughter may no longer be living under your roof, some things will stay the same. Most important: know that your child will always love and need you. But there are a lot of changes ahead as well.

You won’t know what’s going on with your student in the same way you did when they were at home.

If you don’t hear from them as much as you’d like, especially in the beginning, don’t be too concerned. When my sons were in college, days and days would go by without any communication from them. Your student will be busy making new friends, learning their way around campus and settling into a new routine. It may be hard for you to adjust to hearing about their new life in pieces; you’ll have to fit those pieces into a larger picture as you would a puzzle.

Be prepared to hear from your student when they are upset.

I was caught off guard the first time my son called and said he was unhappy because it seemed to come out of nowhere. It took a while, but eventually he figured things out. The problem was that whenever my sons told me about a crisis, I would get distressed — then they’d neglect to mention when things were resolved. So, I remained worried while they were out having fun.

The lesson: take their complaints and concerns seriously but keep things in perspective. That may sound like an impossible balancing act, but as a parent you’ve already had experience on the high wire. Which leads to the next point…

Don’t worry too much.

If you are anything like me, that may be really difficult. While I can guarantee your student will make mistakes along the way — they’re supposed to — they will also make great comebacks.

With a child off to college, your family dynamic will change. Of course you’ll miss your son or daughter, but you’ll also have the opportunity to focus more attention on other family members, including yourself.

Most of all, know that it’s okay to let go. You’ve done everything to make sure your student is prepared. They’ve got this. And so do you.

A mom who’s been there
Follow Marlene on Facebook, and read more of her wonderful stories on her CollegiateParent author page and her blog, "Thoughts from Aisle Four."
Marlene Kern Fischer is a wife, mother of three sons, food shopper extraordinaire, blogger and essay editor. She attended Brandeis University, from which she graduated cum laude with a degree in English Literature. A founding contributor and advisor at CollegiateParent, her work has also been featured on Huffington Post, Grown and Flown, Parent and Co., Kveller, Her View From Home, the Erma Bombeck Writers' Workshop, MockMom, Better After 50, Beyond Your Blog and The SITS Girls. You can read more of Marlene's work on her site, "Thoughts From Aisle Four."
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Maria Sheila Agustin
Maria Sheila Agustin
1 year ago

Loved reading this, especially the ending,”From the mom who’s been there,”.. I got teary eyed just reading it, felt this big lump inside my throat. My first born going to college.

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