Parenting is the most beautiful, but also the hardest job in the world, once you become a parent, you never stop being one. From the very beginning when our babies arrive to this world, through the first milestones, phases, transitions and the moment when they leave the nest, we as parents travel the journey with them, surviving each phase the best we can.
Even though my kids are still little, as a conscientious and caring Aussie mom, I can’t ignore the fact that one day, I too will have to get them and myself ready for college. It’s quite normal to feel a bit panicky about their departure, but I also believe it doesn’t all have to be all scary and stressful.
Here are several tips on how to survive the beautiful ordeal of letting your big kid leave for college.
Plans and Preparations
In the midst of all the lists, plans and preparations, there will be chaos, but try to remember that two lists will bear the most significance: one that will help the kids face the reality of being independent for the first time in their life and the other that will prepare both of you for the emotional strain that this milestone will impose.
The best thing to do is to start with the practical things: teach your kids all the ropes of living on their own. That means taking care of the laundry, changing light bulbs, sending mail, finding the right dentist, using the ATM, paying bills online, riding on the public transport and cooking a few basic meals and grocery shopping.
It’s a lot to cover, and your kid might not at all be willing to do it happily, but would rather hang out with friends and simply not be home. Try to understand that it is only their way of getting ready for the separation.
These moments are an emotional turmoil for the whole family, so try to see it both ways. Let them breathe a bit, but find some time for you as well, to get your mind off of the fact that your nest will be empty soon. Go for walks, spend time with your other kids (if you have them), friends or go out with your husband and rekindle the old flame. This time-off will give everyone more room to breathe and reduce the tension in the air.
One of the first items on the to-do list that you need to take care of is finding a place to live. Your help will be precious here as your kids have never lived away from your home, so they’ll have no idea what to look for.
The best and the most convenient solution is to find a place that is close to their college, in a reputable, but affordable area. Most of the students’ dorms are located in big and busy cities, so the location is very important. For instance, you can start your search for reliable student accommodation in Melbourne CBD, Brisbane or whichever university town your kid picks and then take it from there. See if there is a good public transport connection to there, a good dentist, a 24/7 pharmacy, a communal student kitchen or a good restaurant, and if your kid has a car, a reliable car service and a mechanic.
…And all the other little things
The times of expensive, once-a-week long-distance calls are long gone and communication is very important today. So, discuss with your child what form of communication they would prefer to have with you. Some families like to Skype while others prefer text groups. Let them know that even late night calls or texts, in moments of despair or loneliness, are always welcome.
Also, have their computer serviced and get at least two flash drives to back up the computer. No one wants 2am emergency situations when the computer crashes in the middle of a long seminar paper! Speaking of papers, contact the university tech support centre to get help setting up the printer since wireless connections are not always reliable, especially on the move-in day.
It’s easy to get lost and pack too much stuff, so be the one that will help your kid sift through things and keep the essentials. For instance, there’s no need for two vacuum cleaners, two kettles or two printers. Coordinate with the future roommate and keep it down to basics.
Pack some essential tools like a hammer, a screwdriver, a sewing kit and some essential dishes. Certainly don’t let them leave without a first aid kit and basic medicine in case of toothaches, headaches, fever, allergy or a rash.
Most of all, be straightforward with your child, communicate openly and help them understand that they are capable of doing all of these things on their own.
Inevitably, our children will have many more thresholds and crossroads to pass and the most important thing we can do for them is to offer our unconditional support. Whether it be jobs, true love, engagements, disappointments, marriages or joys of their own parenting one day, we have an opportunity to quietly offer our hand, shoulder and ear whenever they need them.