Six Tips for Adjusting to Your Child Going to College

When I dropped off my eldest child at college, I thought my heart was going to break. However, just a few weeks after that sad weekend, I had adjusted to and accepted the fact that my daughter was no longer a permanent member of my household. Here are a few tips to help you adjust if you are sending your child off to college for the first time.


Reassure your child that he or she will be fine on their own at college. Though your child may act ready to leave and excited to start this new adventure, there is sure to be a little anxiety and apprehension. If you show your child that you are confident that he or she will succeed, it will help make them feel more confident also.

Don’t draw out the goodbyes. The most difficult part of beginning college is often the final goodbye, before you leave once the dorm room has been set up and everything is unpacked. Make it as quick and painless as possible – like ripping off a bandage. There will be tears – yours and theirs – but that’s ok. Don’t be hard on yourself- or your child – for feeling so much emotion. Along the same lines, don’t be surprised if your student shows little emotion when you leave – that’s a very common reaction, too.

 Don’t hover. Don’t constantly call, text, email, Facebook chat, tweet, IM, or anything else. Let your child take the lead on contacting you. Sooner or later they all call home. By letting them call you when they need the comfort of your voice or a few extra dollars, you are allowing them to manage their feelings on their own, which is an important element in growing up. Inevitably calls from your college kids will come as they are walking to and from class – a time when they may feel somewhat isolated and lonely in the beginning.


Now the next step…adjusting to your home with one less person.
The most difficult thing is adjusting to them not living in your home. The empty bedroom, the chair where they usually sit at the dinner table, the reduced chaos – it’s quite startling how different things are when a family member is living away from home. There are a couple of things to do to make the transition a little easier for you:


 Focus your attention on other children still living at home with you. Many parents find that senior year of high school becomes one long conversation with the graduating child, beginning with college applications and ending with school selection and prom dates. Now you can pay a little more attention to younger siblings, who were possibly rolling their eyes around the end of March when college acceptances (and rejections) started arriving. Soon enough younger children will be leaving too – enjoy them now!

Take the opportunity to do a deep cleaning of your college kid’s bedroom. If nothing else, it will make you realize how nice it is to have one room that is neat, clean and organized…at least for the time being. Be careful not to throw away momentos that could be important to your college student!

If you have a little more free time, do some of the things you’ve been wanting to do but haven’t been able to. Perhaps you could find a little corner in your college kid’s room and make it your reading nook. Or maybe you now have time to do things with your other children that your college student didn’t enjoy – sporting events, theater, whatever they are interested in. Some of the things that you enjoyed may be behind you now, but new interests will fill the void if you are patient and open to new activities.

There is no way to know how long it will take for any one person to adjust successfully to having a child leave home for the first time, but by letting go, keeping busy and knowing that they will be back for Thanksgiving, you are doing yourself – and your college student – a big favor.

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

24 Responses to Six Tips for Adjusting to Your Child Going to College
  1. Helene Bludman
    August 13, 2012 | 9:24 am

    Great tips, Sharon! When my eldest left for college I, too, was distraught. It gets a little easier with each kid, but it’s still a transition for everyone. I’ll share another tip that many of my friends have subscribed to: get a dog. You’ll still have someone to mother, and you won’t have to deal with typical teenage angst.
    Helene Bludman recently posted..Two Billion Eyes Were WatchingMy Profile

    • Sharon Greenthal
      August 13, 2012 | 9:43 am

      You’re right, a dog is a great idea! I remember when I left for college, I suggested to my mother that she get a dog and name it “daughter.” :)

  2. Kirby Carespodi
    August 13, 2012 | 9:48 am

    I see you’ve left out a VERY IMPORTANT STEP. Pouring yourself a huge rum & Diet Coke/wine slushie/gin & Tanqueray/jack & ginger/martini/adult beverage of your choice. Drink. Repeat.
    Kirby Carespodi recently posted..Blogging without borders–some week that I can’t remember (and not because I’ve been drinking)My Profile

    • Sharon Greenthal
      August 13, 2012 | 3:17 pm

      You are so right, the cocktails are a must! And I love your blog – you have a new fan!

  3. Nina Knox
    August 13, 2012 | 12:19 pm

    Great tips and great article, Sharon. I know it’s a very hard time, especially for mothers. Your tips on making the adjustment are very important, and they definitely helped me!
    Nina Knox recently posted..Comment on Step Back in Time by Sharon Greenthal (@sharongreenthal)My Profile

  4. Still Blonde after all these YEARS
    August 13, 2012 | 12:43 pm

    I have four children. The first two went off to college and I was fine, missed them some, but my daughter went away in 9th grade for high school to a performing arts high school and I was a friggin wreck. For months I was very sad, even though we ended up closer than most mom and daughters who live with each other. We still talk three times a day (her choice not mine as you suggest)–very quick 30 seconds phone calls or sometimes 3 hour ones.. When my third son went to college, I had a hard time for a few days and then I was good. It’s amazing how with each one there is a different adjustment.
    Still Blonde after all these YEARS recently posted..$400 Sharon Wei Necklace Jewelry GiveawayMy Profile

  5. Ellen Christian
    August 13, 2012 | 1:44 pm

    Great tips. My daughter will be a sophomore in college this year and it does take some serious adjustment to get used to it.
    Ellen Christian recently posted..Healthy snacks for back to school & handy e-guide #momsguideMy Profile

    • Sharon Greenthal
      August 13, 2012 | 3:17 pm

      Yes, and then you adjust when they move home again…at least for a little while!

  6. Nikki
    August 13, 2012 | 2:01 pm

    I have a while to go before I have to deal with this, but I’m not looking forward to the day my baby leaves me! Great tips to make it easier!
    Nikki recently posted..Back to School Spree Sponsor: FunBitesMy Profile

  7. Cinny
    August 13, 2012 | 2:46 pm

    I am constantly trying to reinforce #3 to my parents for my brother, even after he’s done university. Haha, it’s tough being a parent, isn’t it?
    Cinny recently posted..Putting my hairy pits to the testMy Profile

  8. LisaLisa
    August 13, 2012 | 3:02 pm

    Love theses tips. I just did the same thing with my daughter. I was a little sad for a moment then I realized that she is growing up and I have to let her fly. GREAT POST!

    • Sharon Greenthal
      August 13, 2012 | 3:18 pm

      She will always need her mom, but it will be so great for you to watch her grow!

  9. Sharon Greenthal
    August 13, 2012 | 9:25 pm

    Chloe, it took me a year to figure out that I should start blogging. It was a tough year.

  10. Ericka
    August 13, 2012 | 10:18 pm

    I can’t imagine what it will be like when my son goes off to college. Thanks for the tips. I’ll keep them all in mind.
    Ericka recently posted..Creamy Pineapple and Coconut EmpanadasMy Profile

  11. Lisa @ Grandma's Briefs
    August 14, 2012 | 6:55 am

    Great post. With three daughters who went off to college one by one, I have a couple things to add. 1) Hard as it is on the parents, a college that is NOT within a day’s drive is best, I found. My oldest went to a school three hours away…and came home every weekend. She didn’t survive the four years. Our youngest two went seven hours away and had no choice but to tough out the really difficult transition and homesickness. They both graduated and are now in far more satisfactory careers than my oldest. 2) As the kids leave, create some NEW traditions and rituals to replace some of those that no longer feel good with a family member missing. Not just holidays (which, just wait, really SUCK at first when a kid gets married!) but the other little things you did/do as a family. It’s hard to face that empty chair day in and day out, or game nights when the goofiest is no longer playing along. Throw something new and different into the mix.
    One last thing: I find it interesting that you, Sharon, and Chloe both chose to blog as ways to get past the sadness of the nest emptying out. I chose to blog as a way to deal when learning I’d be a long-distance grandmother for God knows how long, because my daughter and SIL had the gall to make their life elsewhere. Blogging is magnificent for mending hearts and keeping one’s mind occupied.
    Lisa @ Grandma’s Briefs recently posted..The grandma in a boxMy Profile

  12. Lisa @ Grandma's Briefs
    August 14, 2012 | 6:56 am

    Oh, gosh. Sorry for the novel above!

  13. donnao
    August 14, 2012 | 8:44 am

    Great tips for sure! I wish I had this list 2 years ago when my first of four went off! This year I have 2 leaving and 2 starting high school at home. Utilizing the kids empty room has worked well for our family. We are sure to keep the rooms homey and we are not quite ready to ditch the bed and add a spa :0)…but using the space in our small home has been helpful for me. The transition was hard…her room was the empty space glaring at me! We decided to modify it a bit and use it as a spare school/home office area. A second desk, hung a bulletin board, etc. Nothing too invasive, just enough to remind me change is inevitable but slow :0).
    Love this blog, BTW! There is def a need for those approaching that empty nest time of life. Glad I found you all!

  14. Elizabeth L
    August 14, 2012 | 11:47 am

    Thanks for the tips! I wish my mom had read some of these before sending me off to University all those years ago!
    Elizabeth L recently posted..Frugal Tip Tuesday – TeaMy Profile

  15. Barb
    August 17, 2012 | 12:43 pm

    It was my last child that was the most difficult. And this was true all along the way because each time he hit a benchmark, I knew it was the last…first day of kindergarten, 1st grade, and then college. Good tips. I agree with the mixing of a cocktail..and would add that we should give ourselves a big ole, “well done” toast.
    Barb recently posted..Enjoy every sandwichMy Profile

  16. Candace Allan
    September 4, 2012 | 12:24 pm

    Hi – I’ve been blogging about kids going away – to university, to be lifties on top of mountains, to wander around foreign countries, to contemplate joining ashrams… but still appreciated the advice offered up here, especially the – don’t hover. Oh, may they forgive the hovering…

  17. […] Six Tips For Adjusting To Your Child Going To College by Empty House, Full Mind […]

  18. sandra
    June 25, 2014 | 6:45 pm

    Today is my first day not having my son here at home, he has started college at USF and ill be honest I don’t know how to deal with this sadness :(

    • Sharon Greenthal
      June 25, 2014 | 6:48 pm

      I’m so sorry to hear that – it’s a terribly sad thing at first, but it does get easier!

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

CommentLuv badge

Trackback URL