Parents have said to me that they haven\’t taught their children:

  • How to do laundry?
  • How to budget?
  • How to do Time Management?
  • How to book an airline ticket and get to the airport?
  • How to balance college and social life?
  • How to stay safe?
  • I am sure there are more concerns that would pop up on your list. It is normal to feel anxious about what you haven\’t done.

    If there is one thing you had to pick that wasn\’t negotiable to discuss, I would vote for a SAFETY TALK. Even if you Google safety tips for college students and print out a list for them or decide to write one yourself, for example: safety using an ATM, walking across campus late at night, feeling something off at a party that just doesn\’t feel right, being attacked by a robber, etc. I know that last one is terrifying and it does happen. Going off campus for the weekend will be a choice so what do you want them to do as far as communicating with you, etc. Remember they may say yes they will let you know and it doesn\’t happen.

    Sometimes children can\’t take you in for a sit down talk, so giving them an easy TIP SHEET to read to them as they are Packing and then putting it in their suitcase, helps you and them feel better. Keeping the time frame short and scheduling that day rather than days ahead to talk about something on your list might be more successful than planning days ahead. Your children\’s schedule and life choices change all the time. Stay flexible since the goal is to have a time to chat about safety. Could be last minute with the way they are coping with the countdown to goodbye with their friends.

    Over the years, the feedback from parents and my own experience is that they learn when they are IN THE EXPERIENCE. They want to know because they are living it right then. Sometimes it doesn\’t stick until it comes up for them, “Mom, do I have to book the flight home for the holidays or are you doing that after I talk with my professors?”

    You can tell them that you understand there will be things they forget how to do.

    Just BRINGING UP what you didn\’t teach them might show you that they aren\’t worried about it. They will figure it out or will call for help.

    Mistakes will happen with money or missing a flight or mixing the reds with the whites. They will feel terrible about it. MISTAKES are part of learning. Letting them think and feel without you is college life. You know it, you just forget.

    You want to cover everything in order to feel like you could have prevented problems, but that isn\’t always true. Let it go.

    Spinning in your head that you didn\’t pack enough Tylenol or flu relief in their MEDICINE KIT or you forgot to pack the photos in the suitcase, is natural. You can send a care package anytime. Ease your pain by remembering this is a major life transition for you and for them and therefore forgetfulness and wanting everything to work out perfectly will visit you at the oddest of times.

    Get outside to take a break from the to-do list and the feelings of anxiety. Call a friend. Plan something fun for you. Cry when you need to cry. Get support.

    Embarrassing but true, parents TALK TOO MUCH. Part of it is that they want any kind of connection they can get with their children. Sometimes that comes out as guilt or worry or anger. DRAMA. Who wouldn\’t want as much connection as they could get when they are on the countdown to goodbye?

    So be kind and forgiving to yourself as you are on the journey of entering into a new role, wondering NOW WHAT, and giving the big hug goodbye.
    Take care,
    Visit my blog for more tips and stories Email if you are interested in a Journaling class online with empty nesters.
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    Natalie Caine is the founder of Empty Nest Support Services. When her daughter was a senior in high school, she realized that as a soon-to-be “empty nester,” she would be undergoing a major life shift. Not wanting to confront this transition alone nor have her many friends face this abyss without strong support, she created a support services group, which quickly grew into a new career and an exciting full-time business.