If You’re About to Send a Kid to College. . .

I chatted with a mom today who will be taking her youngest to college in about a week. The daughter is a junior so this mom knows all too well how quiet the house will be in a couple of weeks. She already anticipates her empty bedroom and one less place setting at dinner. This mom is excited for her daughter’s adventure and celebrates all of her kids’ lives even though none live near their hometown.

Her circumstance is much like many of ours. I still remember like it was yesterday sitting in my friend’s living room and sobbing uncontrollably as she made the observation that I was grieving our empty nest when Kerry, our youngest, went to college. Her observation was news to me. I had no idea what I was feeling. There was no way I could have anticipated the grief I experienced by her absence.

All we poured into our kids suddenly seems gone. They’ve moved on but we’re still a mom and without a kid to parent.

We love our kids. We celebrate their independence and success. But we miss them!

How can we continue to be moms who are appropriately involved in their kids’ lives while joyfully moving on with ours?

First, give yourself some grace and place to grieve. Don’t pay rent on this spot, because you’re not going to be here permanently. Acknowledge this is harder than you anticipated. Go ahead—breathe in that reality—then exhale with a few tears or, maybe like me, sobs.

No one can tell you how long to grieve but having your next season of life in view will help.

Decide what kind of mom you want to be to your adult child.

  • What tone do you want for the relationship?
  • How do you want your child to see you?
  • What kind of role model do you want to be?

When you answer these questions you will have a goal and a path for the next season in your child’s life. Yes, I let my kids know I miss them and I love them. And they also see that my life has continued. I’m not freeze-framed while they’re away, nor do I sit in front of the TV waiting for their return.

Nothing or no one can replace my kids in my heart or life. I’m not looking for that. It is hard to accept the fact that home life will never be the same. I do all I can to nurture relationship with our now-adult kids.

At the beginning of the week, I text the girls my schedule. This lets them know when I have time to talk so they don’t call in the middle of a doctor appointment or meeting. Their schedules are varied so usually it is better for them to call me since I am more available. This does not mean I never call. I do. I usually send a text asking for a good time to talk.

I send notes or little gifts—not as often as I would like to. I need to get better at this. Gene and I like to celebrate their little successes with a card or just to tell them we love them.

Gene and I visit them or sometimes only I have time to go. It is special to see the kids in their new locations.

I share with the kids what I’m doing. Don’t be shy about telling your kids what’s on your schedule or what you’re excited about. You might not want to give a ton of detail—look and listen for nonverbal clues as to how interested they are and share accordingly. Although, their interest level never bothers Gene; he tells them everything he can think of and they listen attentively. It must be a dad-thing.

Then find someone to mentor. I’m serious. You have lots to offer. Pray for God to lead the right young woman to you who you can encourage and guide.

I know this is a hard season. From time to time it’s still hard for me. But deciding what kind of mom you want to be for your adult child gives you a new goal and a place in which to pour your mom-energy. We can do this!

And then when they come home enjoy every moment!

Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.

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