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Saying Goodbye to Your College Bound Kids

Saying Goodbye to Your College Bound Kids

By Natalie Caine, M.A.
NABBW’s Empty Nest Expert

In our parent group, I suggested each share what they will miss and what they look forward to when they aren\’t parents every day. I suggested they remember to allow different parts of them to speak, the confident one, the brave one, the sad one, the freedom one, etc. We forget we have so many parts within us when sadness grips.

Tears are a great thing even though I have never met one person who likes to cry unless they are alone. Even alone, the beginning of tears feels the worst because you don\’t want to “go there,” partially for fear you won\’t, “get out.”

Tips for the goodbye:

1. Say what you want to say and think about what that might be before you have that last moment on campus.

2. Write a note ahead of time and hand it to them or tuck it someone that you know they will see when you are gone. Maybe telling them you believe in them and you are there for them no matter what, if that is true for you. Yes, a love note. Who wouldn\’t want one of those at any age?

3. Let them lead in arranging their room or what they want to do that day or evening. You know this to be true and naturally, you just want a little more time to nurture…”make it happen easily.”

4. Ask how you can help while driving or flying there. They might not know until there. I imagine, like my kid, they are both excited and nervous so not much into planning.

5. It is their new friends, not your social hour. Sorry for that harshness. Be in the background.

6. Let them know you will be sending a care package.

7. Make a medical kit and leave it in the room…Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, protein drink, vitamin C, parent\’s numbers and doctor back home numbers, Band-Aids, thermometer, whatever they used at home.

8. Talk before you hug goodbye about communication styles, texting, email, Skype, and be flexible with the outcome and times you would like them to connect. They will do what they want to do even though you don\’t like that idea. Great to say what you would like and pause and see if you would want to be calling home that much when you were their age. Reality vs. unrealistic expectations.

9. Ask if they want to be told on the phone if a grandparent, etc. is ill or how they want that communication.

10. Talk about money and budget before the car ride to college.

11. It is OK for them to see you cry. Just let them know beforehand that you might cry and it is normal. They don\’t have to do anything. Just let you be. You will be fine. Love brings tears.

12. You can\’t tell them enough what it is you specifically love about them . Say it. They love to hear it as well as stories about them. Focus is on them, and what\’s new about that…not much.

13. Let yourself meander about how wonderful your new freedom will be.

14. Acknowledge to yourself how you have been a positive parent and person in their life and probably also to their friends. You can write yourself a letter or say it within yourself.

15. You raised them to be happy and independent. How would you have liked to be treated when you left home?

16. Technology makes it easier to stay connected. Stop. Let them lead. Count to five, asking, do I need to connect now or can I wait? It takes practice to stand back and observe. You will walk with more paradoxes now than before. When you miss them so much, you will text or call. You might keep that phone velcroed for a while. (I did) You don\’t want to miss that call and it happens that you will miss it. You call back and they don\’t pick up or they email and you email back and you don\’t hear from them for a week. Some kids don\’t even read email. I know that is surprising. That is why it helps to talk about communication styles before you say goodbye.

17. Be sweet to yourself during this major transition. Treat yourself as you would treat your best friend who misses someone they love.

18. Be with people who understand your journey of change. This is an ending to the role you had as parent and a beginning of a new parenting role. It is more about re-connecting with yourself and moving into adult to adult relationship with your kids. Takes practice and mistakes.

Take good care. May your goodbye bring back to you, a deep appreciation of yourself and those you love.


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Natalie Caine Founder of Empty Nest Support Services

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.

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