If you read the title of this post and got here quick to see what calamity might befall your precious college freshman, the warning is for you not your child! The tips listed below are for you!
There are many emotions that have hurled through my heart and head over the last few weeks. Excitement for my daughter at what lies ahead, sadness for me as I miss her deeply, concern for her brother who is so very close to her and alarm for my husband who at times has looked like a sad ten year old boy.
There is a lot packed into figuring out a new normal when a very integral and loving part of your household strips her room bare and waltzes out the door to merrily go off to college. The hole left behind is a giant vacuum that seeks to suck the frivolity and joy right out of the home.
What I have learned is that you must fight the pull to be carried into the vacuum and trapped in a very dirty messy place. You must choose to accept and adapt. Learn a new normal and find what God wants to teach you through it.
I am still learning through this transition and am very grateful that a few years ago I read Barbara and Susan’s Guide to The Empty Nest, as it did prepare me quite well – not because I was going to have an empty nest, but because my first was soon to be leaving mine.
Based on my experience the last few weeks I do have some suggestions for those of you who have launched a teen off to college, or work, or out of your home.
1. Stay connected closely to the Lord and pray for your child as well as each member of your family. Find peace through the reading of God’s word.
2. Do not allow your physical body to suffer, make sure to get regular exercise, eat healthy meals and keep a sensible sleeping schedule. It sounds basic…but each of these is of vital importance. Please friend, do not turn to substance abuse for comfort, in the long run that can become a viscous cycle.
3. Choose to say no to any new opportunities for a few months, or even a year to give you time to transition well. (This I remember specifically from the Guide to the Empty Nest book!)
4. Do not lay your own personal transition problems on your teen that has left – allow them to spread their wings and experience life without having to worry about you.
5. Find another mom who has already experienced launching a child, confide in her and learn from her experience.
6. Explore new ways to connect with your children that are still at home as this is a new experience for them too – help them to transition well by concentrating on strengthening your relationship.
7. Be mindful of your self-talk and make sure you are keeping it positive and forward thinking. Don’t dwell on what has changed and is never going to be the same. Instead be hopeful for the future and the new “first’s” you are going to get to experience.
8. When you do interact with your launched teen make the texts, phone calls, and Facebook posts positive and uplifting. Let them know you believe in them and their ability to “make it” away from home. You should be their biggest cheerleader!
9. Don’t put added pressure on your child to perform. For this first semester just expect a base hit… not a home run. The transition to college work, college life (or work life) is a tough one and added pressure from parents can be a hindrance to success.
10. If your child comes home for a visit, encourage them to bring friends. Make some new habits and treat your teen as more of an adult. Talk with them, not at them. If necessary, bite your tongue and avoid the desire to lecture or teach – just enjoy time together and encourage. (And make their favorite meals/desserts – that’ll ensure a return visit!)
If you are filled with a swirl of emotions and pressure, how much more difficult to handle are those same feelings for an inexperienced 18 year old?
The biggest warning of all is to remember that even though your child is trying very hard to be grown up and you should treat them as such… they really do have a whole lot to learn. They will crawl before they can walk.
We must be mindful to encourage those “first steps” much like we did when they learned to walk. There were a lot of falls and stumbles, but our constant encouragement and belief in them is what got them walking!
For those of you who have launched teens off to college or work this year, what has helped you adjust to the ‘new normal?’