St. Mary's College of Maryland

For Parents: How to Help Yourself through this Change

"It hit me that it wasn't just my daughter who was moving on to a new phase but also me. For the longest time I had defined myself as the father of young children. If Sarah is becoming an adult, then what am I" ...a father from Denver

"I'm ready to go out to dinner more and cook less!" ...a mother from Missouri from Letting Go: A Parent's Guide to Understand the College Years

  1. Recognize that feelings of ambivalence about your child’s leaving home are normal.
    Give yourself time to readjust. For some families, this step can seem like a dramatic separation of parent and child, although it is usually the separation of adult from almost-adult. It is normal, too, to look forward to the relative peace and quiet of having your active older adolescent out of the house and having the place to yourself, or being able to spend time with your younger children. After all, if the phone rings, it might actually be for you!

  2. Allow yourself to feel whatever emotions come up.
    While your child is getting ready to come to SMCM, there is little benefit in pretending that you don’t feel sad, guilty, relieved, apprehensive, or whatever feelings you do have. Often parents have other changes and sources of stress happening in their own lives, such as aging parents or mid-life health changes that add to the impact of this transition. You probably aren’t fooling anyone by trying to hide your reactions; a healthier approach is to talk about them with your family, friends, clergy, or whoever is a source of support for you.

  3. Make “overall wellness” a goal for yourself.
    Especially during times of change, it helps to get enough sleep, eat healthful meals regularly, and get adequate exercise. Spending some recharging time doing the things that you especially like is another step toward wellness. If you are feeling good, you are more likely to have the energy to be a good role model and resource to help your child adjust.

  4. Remember that, for your child, coming to SMCM is a tremendously important developmental step toward full adulthood.
    It represents the culmination of the teaching and learning of 18 years or so, much of it geared toward helping your child assume a productive place in the world. This is the time when your hard work will show itself in the form of a framework that your first-year student will use in beginning to make independent choices. Many parents find that it helps to focus on the fact that providing your child with this opportunity is a priceless gift. Be proud of yourself!

  5. Don’t forget to reward yourself.
    Go out and celebrate with a dinner or a party. You have raised a wonderful adult who is moving on to the exciting phase of his or her life. Give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.

  6. Consider your own dreams
    Especially for parents whose last child or only child has moved away to college, consider the possibilities that come with greater personal freedom. Taking on new challenges is an excellent way to manage and channel energy and feelings. Have you ever wanted to write a book? Learn to fly-fish? Make a quilt? Volunteer in your community? Assume a new project or responsibility at work? Travel? Get your own bicycle and ride all over town? Make a list of all the things you intended to do while your child was growing up, but never had the time to do. Now is your chance!