How to Emotionally Prepare Yourself When Your Child Leaves Home for College

It’s no surprise that many parents experience grief and/or elation as their child leaves home for university — it’s one of the biggest changes a family goes through.  It is also an opportunity for you to support your child into the next phase of responsibility/adulthood.

Fellow blogger Adventures In Expatland shared her desire to support her son as he goes from the Netherlands to the US for his education in her post entitled Twenty Three Days. Inspired by this recent post, I thought I’d put together some tips for parents who are also facing this life-changing experience.


  1. Recognise that both you and your child are going through the same change, even if it’s not the same emotional reaction to the change. Remind yourself that people have different ways of dealing with change if/when there are emotional clashes.
  2. Create opportunities to share time together before your child leaves. Do not leave this to chance. Get out a calendar (or equivalent), sit down with your child and put these commitments directly into the schedule.
    • Ask your child to choose a couple of activities that they’d like to share with you and/or your family before they leave. One idea could be their favourite meal at the house, another going for a hike, for example.
    • Choose one time a day when it suits both of you to simply touch base and see how plans are progressing in packing, organising paperwork and/or how they’re feeling about things.
    • Ensure that these times are sacrosanct on both sides.
  3. When things go wrong, resist the temptation to “rescue” your child. Instead of solving the problem, coach:
    • ASK your child what options they have.
    • ASK your child who they need to involve or talk to and if they have their details.
    • ASK your child when they need to have this sorted and have them commit to a date and/or time and put it in their diary.
    • ASK your child if they would like to follow-up with you at your next schedule catch up to report their progress.If you have a spouse or other children staying home, take extra time to really LISTEN to their needs and spend time with them too. This is a change for everyone.
  4. Make plans for yourself and/or the remaining family members after the child leaves to look forward to. Date nights, a weekend away and/or shifting rooms in the house are typical examples. See related articles below for more ideas.
  5. Whether your child is moving within driving distance or overseas, they are only a phone call away. Ask your child how they would like to be contacted and how often. Negotiate something that works for everyone.
  6. It is not your child’s responsibility to take care of your grief. Spend time with friends, family or others who you can share your feelings with. Write your thoughts in a journal or seek out a counsellor.
  7. Conversely your child may not be as excited about leaving home as you are. Encourage them to get support for themselves as above, if so.  

Most importantly, ACCEPT that:

  • Your daily routine may be different.
  • Your relationship with your spouse and/or other children may change.
  • Whatever feelings you have, they are all valid.
  • Take care of yourself.

NOTE: If you’d like to brush up on your listening skills (and who doesn’t?) I recently came across this quick refresher on TED Talks. Click here to listen to it: 5 Ways to Listen Better by Julian Treasure.

This entry was posted in Relationships, Self-care and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to How to Emotionally Prepare Yourself When Your Child Leaves Home for College

  1. thedailydish says:

    I will have to come back to this post in 5 years. Hard to believe my baby will be leaving for college then.

  2. In the meantime, continue to enjoy your time together!

  3. Great post! I will need to read it again in eight years or so, right now trying to enjoy the time with them. That’s the wisdom gained from being an older parent.

  4. I’m confident that you’ll cherish every moment from the posts I’ve read about your kids, whether they’re at home or elsewhere.

  5. So sorry to have missed this the first time around; wanted to say I’m humbled that my post inspired you to write this one. Very helpful, and I especially liked the emphasis on encouraging our children to figure out their own way through gentle questions rather than dictated directions. I’m thrilled to be linked to such a good post, thank you!

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