Seven Tips for When Your Child First Leaves Home for College

And ever has it been known that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.   Khalil Gibran

The first transition from home to college is huge. Double that statement if the child in question is the eldest. Please consider these seven tips for getting the most out of the experience.

1. Carve out one-on-one time with your departing child and savor those moments. As the wheel turns new and exciting opportunities become available in our relationships with our children. However, we also say goodbye to phases that we will never experience again. Your baby will never again live under your roof as a child. This deserves shared time and reflection.

2. Share the positive thoughts and feelings you are having with your child, including those regarding your impression of the man or woman he or she is becoming. Don’t stop any tears that might well up (plus you probably won’t be the only one)

3. Write a letter to your child that expresses what you are thinking and feeling. Then leave it among her or his belongings to be discovered later.

4. If your child agrees, and it is within your means, set up a method for video conferencing.  Even if you don’t use it much, it can be a comfort to you and/or your child to have it set up. (If you both have iPads or iPhones this can be done through the application FaceTime. Another relatively straight forward choice is offered by Also keep in mind that many retailers of computer hardware and software offer discounts to students, though you may need to ask about it to get it.

5. Encourage any siblings your departing child may have to come to terms with what they are thinking and feeling about the departure, and to communicate the positive aspects of such to their departing sister or brother. It can also be mutually meaningful and beneficial for them to author letters, drawings and symbols that commemorate their relationship.

6. Agree on when and where each person in the family will say goodbye. No one wants to be stuck with the sense of having missed an opportunity. Also, if you decide to say goodbye on campus, keep in mind that your child is not likely to want much drama on display for others.

7. Give yourself a huge pat on the back (and maybe even a treat). Your shepherding has been effective enough to land your child in college. Way to go!!

(By the way, if your child is experiencing, or starts to experience, psychological symptoms keep in mind that most universities have a counseling center that offers free or low fee services. If the university has a graduate program in the mental health professions they may also have a training clinic on campus that offers outpatient care.)

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