College Mom 101–Surviving the Semi-Empty Nest

In May our oldest graduated from high school, and a few weeks ago he drove off to college. I cried both days. A lot.

But then, like the strong-willed German that I am, I bucked up and got over it.

Because my kid going to college is not about me.

I had my chance. I went to college. I loved college. I *might* have loved college just a wee bit too much.

This time, it is his turn. And he does *NOT* need me hovering over him like a creepy helicopter, and he does not need me looking over his shoulder like a stalker.

So here, my friends, is a brief primer on sending your child(ren) off to college. (You may just want to Pin this or bookmark it for later–the time WILL come!)


  • Learn what parts of the college experience are for parents to join in with, and which ones are not.
    For example, the “college visit” is a great activity for parents to join in on–and you should! The admissions staff is used to answering all of your questions. There is often a separate “parent orientation” (I suspect that this is scheduled to get parents out of the way during student orientation–far too many heli-moms would be tempted to follow Junior around taking notes.) Move in day is a fine time for parents (but check with Junior first–some kids prefer a more laid-back move-in day minus sibling entourage and weepy mom.)
  • Have “the talk”. Not *that* talk. . .that should have happened years ago. Now, this talk is about all of the what-ifs. What if the roommate is an insufferable jerk, what about sick days? Is skipping class a good idea (no!) What about parties? How often to come home? How often will you text or call? Will junior have an allowance or need to get a job? And, importantly, have a talk about credit, and the wise use of it (very sparingly). We found College 101: Campus Life for ChristiansCollege Mom 101--Surviving the Semi-Empty Nest 1 to be very helpful.
  • Keep Move-In Day Brief. Help Junior unload the car, but resist the urge to unpack the socks and underwear and put them away. Introduce yourself to roommate and parents, but do not share baby photos or embarrassing stories. Take Junior to lunch and to one last minute fridge stocking trip to Target and then leave. No tears. Just a simple goodbye. There are so many activities that first weekend of school, and Junior needs to feel free to partake (or not) as much as he wants and not worry about entertaining his grieving mom (and yes, grief is a great word to describe that feeling).
  • Take advantage of technology. It is much less embarrassing for Junior to text back and forth with you than to field awkward phone calls (plus, kids can tell if you are crying on the phone). Take advantage of messaging on Facebook or Twitter, or take a leap and learn to Snapchat! If your college has a parent organization, join up and get to know other parents going through what you are going through.
  • Don’t forget the care-packages. Everyone loves mail, and Junior is no exception. Time a package to arrive around the end of the first week. Remember that a care package is for roommate and suitemates as well, so double up on the goodies. After that, set aside all of the treats that you buy by habit and accident and ship them off every few weeks.
  • Remember whose college experience this is. (hint: it is not yours–no matter how much you miss dorm life) Yes, you feel like a piece of your heart has been ripped out and transplanted across the state, but Mom, you raised Junior for this! We raise our kids to leave the nest. They will make mistakes, they will call you in a panic, they will make fun of you with their roommates. This, Mom, is part of college life.

You’ve got this, mom. You worked really hard to have the happiest baby on the block, now step back and let your child be the happiest co-ed on campus, knowing that he is loved, supported, but most of all, not smothered.

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Written by Dakotapam
I'm a Lutheran pastor's wife and mom to six kids, including young adult sons down to 8-year old twin daughters. My life is sometimes normal, and sometimes crazy; but through it all, I know that I am blessed! Some people say that I have my hands full, I prefer to call it living life with both hands full, and I love it!