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The New Normal

The University of Alabama Parent & Family Programs

You’ve gotten your student settled in their residence hall, given them that big hug that you never wanted to end, and now you’re back home. The house is quieter, and now there is an empty bedroom. Where do you go from here? As the parent of a senior, here are some suggestions on how to face this new chapter in your lives.

First, take a deep breath. It is going to be alright!

Your family chose the University of Alabama. You and your student are now part of the Alabama family, and family takes care of each other. The University of Alabama wants your student to be happy, and they will give your student the tools to be successful both academically and socially.

Within the first three months, our family had to deal with a long distance separation, the transition into life as empty nesters, learning to be supportive but not hovering and face our different roles as parents, as well as handle a family illness.

Living in California, we were 2500 miles away from our daughter and only child. No matter what distance you are, whether far or near, you may find yourself calling your student a lot. That is okay. Your student will eventually tell you how much is too much. As your student becomes more confident and independent and as you become more comfortable, your family will find that balance on when and how often to call.

Going to Family Weekend was a great help to us. Even though she stated that everything was fine, we still wanted to make sure she was okay. We met her friends, took them out to dinner (which they really appreciated), and were able to see that she was creating new friendships and new memories. We saw the family atmosphere on campus and how welcoming everyone was wherever we went. When we boarded the plane for home, we felt reassured that this was the right place for her.

Just as this is a new chapter for your student, it is also a new chapter in your life. You may be empty nesters now, just like us. Realize that your relationship with your student may change as they become more independent. What your student needed from you when they were five is different now that they are adults. While it is different, it is still just as wonderful and loving. Realizing this fact helped us to transition. We missed our daughter, but we acknowledged that she is creating a new life for herself. My husband and I suddenly had more free time on our hands that we could devote to ourselves, each other, and the things we wanted to do as adults distinct from that of being a parent. Once we realized that we should not feel guilty about this, we embraced this new chapter in our lives.

Additionally, we wanted to make sure that we were not hovering over her. Just as with our daughter, your student wants to do well, and they want to make you proud. So, if that first test grade is not as good as they wanted, be the cheerleader you have always been. Let them know that you realize this is all new and that you have confidence in them. Encourage them to go beyond their comfort zone and try new clubs or organizations. There are hundreds of activities on campus that your student can connect with and enjoy. Even if they join just one club, this will make their transition and yours so much easier.

Set a budget. If your family decides to give your student extra spending money start at a lower amount. It’s much harder to reduce a higher amount.

The last issue is something that I hope you do not have to encounter. Three months after our daughter started school I was diagnosed with Clinically Isolated Syndrome. I was told that this might lead to Multiple Sclerosis. After the shock had worn off and I started treatment, my husband and I were faced with one of the most difficult decisions in our lives. Do we tell our daughter and if so how and when? We did not want her life disrupted. We wanted her to focus on college and not have what was affecting me negatively affect her. For a while, we told her that I had allergies as a reason why I was tired some of the time. When she came home that summer following her freshman year, my husband and I made the decision to tell her; however, I did not know when would be the right time. One day, she and I were sitting in front of a store about to exit the car. Before we got out of the car, I turned to her and calmly told her what I had and what I was doing about it. She turned to me and said “Everything is going to be alright Mom. I love you.” When I looked out the car window I saw that people were going about their business, the earth had not come to a stop and life was going on. I realized that I had underestimated the strength of our daughter. By calmly talking to her about it, her strength, mine, and my husband’s allowed our family to face this illness head on. This is life. Some days are better than others, but you appreciate each one and try to make it count.

I hope that your family does not have to face this issue, but if you do, your family may take a different approach. Each family is unique and has their own solutions that work for them, but know that you can get through it, and you’re not alone. We are so happy that our daughter chose the University of Alabama. Congratulations to you and your family. You’ve raised a wonderful student!!

Roll Tide

University of Alabama Page


The University of Alabama Parent & Family Programs

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4 years ago

Thank you for sharing that. Prayers FOR all of you!!

4 years ago
Reply to  Jennifer

Thank you!!!

4 years ago

Very personal, which is appreciated.

Thusfar, I have cried 7 times since I dumped my kid. I anticipate 10 total, so I am almost there.

Your pain is your pain. Don't let anyone tell you it will be alright. It wont be alright until you see its alright (after 10 cries I suspect)...

4 years ago
Reply to  withheld

I cried for months before she left and after.
If you go to parents weekend I hope we meet at the parents tailgate Saturday.

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