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Heading to College and Letting Go

Are we ever ready to say goodbye? From the moment our kids squeal, through their sleepless nights, ailments, heartbreaks, exams, memories you build together, they are always by our side. In a blink, they are heading to College, and you are left wondering, how will they “survive” without us? Who will make sure they are safe and tell them to clean up after themselves? If we look back, we will see that we have provided the tools needed to head out and start a new chapter.

Our kids’ room may not be the way we expect it and their first wash of whites may have turned pink or they forget to shower and oversleep missing a class. This is all a learning process for them, and it’s their journey which they are embarking on, not ours. It will be filled with memories and experiences which only add value and help them define the person they want to be. All they need to know is that they are loved, supported, and missed. So when it is time to head to college, know that you are not saying “goodbye”, but instead “see you soon”.


  • Take time to go on a Date: Move-in day at college is a total whirlwind. Despite your best attempts at planning and calculating how you will arrive on campus, unload the car, haul dozens of boxes and storage bins up 3 flights of stairs, and help your student hurriedly unpack his/her life in a couple of very short hours—unforeseen things usually pop up and plans change. There will be chaos, new people coming and going, and in a blink, it will be time to have that final embrace until you reunite at either Parent’s Weekend or perhaps even Thanksgiving or the holidays. In short, there won’t be any time for a long, heartfelt talk with your child about anything significant before you part ways. So that you won’t feel harried and rushed about getting in a meaningful talk before your student is on his own, schedule a date for just the two of you (or with both parents) a week or so before they leave home.
  • Ask What They Want:  Goodbyes are tough on everyone, and when sending a child off to college we parents can get wrapped up in our own emotions and how we are going to handle the moment. Ask your child what his/her expectations are for that moment when you part ways. If your child is a hugger, touchy-feely kind of kid, he may enjoy a “hands-on” goodbye. If she’s more of an introverted type like one of my daughters, something quick and easy might be her preference. It doesn’t hurt to ask so you can make it as easy as possible on all of you. Think about your parting message. Stay as composed as possible. Your child needs to know you’ll be OK without him. The final words between you and your child are key. Say whatever wisdom you have to offer, whether it is ‘I love you,’ ‘I’m behind you,’ ‘I’m proud of you.’ Your child really will remember those words. My best advice in sending four of my kids off to college is don’t drag out the goodbye. Your child doesn’t want you hugging and crying and having a long goodbye in front of their new roommate and the rest of the world.

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