Sending your child off to college is a BIG transition.  For you and for them.  While new college students will have many things to focus on in their new surroundings, you will have………………a big hole.  But you will get through this! 

First Time College Parents

First time college parents are easy to spot.  For weeks, I was walking a little slower; chatting a little longer — with complete strangers. In the grocery store, I’d stop often at the meat tray, at the milk aisle, having singular debates on “How dog holding crying towelmuch?” to buy.  A family of 4 who sends a boy off to college only needs half as much food! And maybe we should have some broccolli now that he’s gone.

I was pretty much on the verge of tears all day, every day.  Molly, the dog, and I put in some good serious sob time together wishing we still had our boy to throw the ball to us.  I took longer walks.  Talked about doing a little redecorating.

But mostly I realized that a neat house isn’t all that great.  In fact I’d have traded it all for a coffee table full of soda cans and some shoes on the stairs.  I have friends who couldn’t look in their kid’s room for a month.  If this sounds painfully familiar, don’t be embarrassed.  Just grab your pooch and your crying towel, and have a good one.  And know that things will soon get better.

College Students Come Back….Better

Because you aren’t really losing them.  You are about to have your relationship open up in a wonderful new way as your young person becomes a real live, bill paying, responsiblity sharing young adult.  You will become amazed at their ability to function in the world out there and at the new, mature perspective that living in the real world gives them.  You are welcoming a new young person into your life, one whose friends (and grades) may be beyond your reach (it’s okay, you’ve taught them well), but who will give you reasons to experience new things, new places, new ideas.

College Students and Younger Siblings

The often prickly relationship of siblings will almost certainly improve as they transition from competitors for the family treasure of attention and approval to a mentorship that will, frankly, warm your heart.  Our son had lots of really (dare I say it)  mature advice for his sister about high school classes and teachers he had had, about choosing colleges, and taking tests, and driving, and getting along with Mom and Dad.  Some of that had a faintly familiar ring to it.  Their new relationship made room for a lot more time spent together in subsequent summers and the foundation for what I hope will be a supportive relationship in years to come.

Know Your College Student is OK

The biggest source of anxiety for you is the thought that your sweet little teenager is alone in that H U G E university, miles and miles from home, knowing not one soul.  That child who can’t find ketchup when they are staring at it will now have to feed himself, find his classes, clean his clothes and manage his money.   That child who needed 3 visits to their room to get them up in the morning will now have to get themselves to class on time every day.  They’ll have to find their lecture halls; talk to professors.  They may even need to hold a campus job.  How in the world will this happen?

I must confess the inner workings of how they metamorphose into competent college students is still a complete mystery, and one I would trade my Jimmy Choos to watch, ringside.  But lets just accept that it happens and rejoice.  At Winter Break, when you see that this miracle is, in fact, in process with YOUR CHILD, a great cloud will be lifted and you will take up your new life as a parent of a college student!

And the only crying you do will be over those tuition checks!

Mary Handfelt– surviving college parent, and occasional blogger at