Get stories and expert advice on all things related to college and parenting.
When Pandemic Life Gives You Lemons, You Take ThemShari Bender
We all know how difficult it is sending your child off to college for their freshman year. The tears, the stress, the agony of separation—for you and them. The good news is that, after freshman year, it’s smooth (or at least smoother) sailing.
Here are five ways sending your non-freshman off to school is so much better!
Although your student probably lost a few items after the first year (or had to throw them out because they were ruined in a laundry disaster or, worse, were too gross to use because they weren't laundered), by and large they pretty much have what they need. There’s no need for a marathon Bed, Bath & Beyond expedition with the dorm room contents list in one hand, the bar code scanner in the other, while you wipe away an occasional tear thinking about how far away they will be when they are using the linens, bedding, rugs and bath supplies you are buying them. As they pack this time around, if they find they are lacking something they can go buy it themselves or pick it up when they're back on campus (but remind them to take the 20% off coupons!).
You may still be a little sad when you drop them off (or as you wave goodbye to them in their car or at the airport because they can now get themselves to school on their own), but it's nowhere near the level of distress you felt the first time around. And if we are being honest here, after three months of having them home, you may even rejoice in the prospect of a little break from them. You also now realize that they get an incredible amount of time off and you will see them again in the blink of an eye.
I won’t tell your student you aren’t pining for them every waking moment — it can be our little secret.
Even if you do drop them off, you won’t have to navigate the logistics of an entire class of 800, 2000 or 10,000 moving into the residence halls on the same day and unpack quickly enough to attend all the orientation programming for parents, ending with Convocation (at which you will undoubtedly hear it is the “last time you will all be together until graduation”). This time move in should be relatively easy and drama free.
Your upperclassman will not be nervous or anxious, which will alleviate your nerves and anxiety. They know their way around campus, have a good sense of what classes they want to take, and are prepared in many ways they were not before their freshman year. They will be returning — with squeals and hugs among the girls and head nods and cool handshakes for boys —to the friends they’ve made and a place they consider home. A year (or two or three) makes a huge difference. You (and they) know now: they’ve got this.
After months (and possibly years) of anticipating your child’s departure, you have gotten used to the new dynamic in your house. Whether you still have other children at home or are an empty nester, you have figured out ways to fill the extra time one fewer resident generates. With less food shopping, laundry and cleaning, perhaps you have picked up a new hobby, changed careers or embraced being a couple again with enthusiasm. When your upperclassman leaves, you can resume your new life. I won’t tell your student you aren’t pining for them every waking moment — it can be our little secret.
Each year you get closer to having your child off the dole. Although I know you love sending huge sums of money to their college, think about how nice will it be to be done with those payments. In addition to not having to pay for college, your child is inching closer to having a real paycheck beyond their summer and perhaps college job earnings, which often seem to need to be supplemented by you at some point during the school year. You can begin the countdown to not having to worry and wonder about tuition increases, fraternity and sorority dues, and other expenses that always crop up during the school year.
As you embark on another academic year, realize how far you’ve all come since that first year, when you were nervous and unsure of what to expect. And if you are a parent of a freshman, know that by next year, you too will be that seasoned parent, able to advise and reassure the newcomers with your wisdom and experience.