Although as parents our aim is to prepare our children for the big world out there we often forget to prepare ourselves for the loss we will feel when they begin to take their first steps of independence. If that first day at ‘big’ school was a challenge be warned it is nothing compared with the first time you leave them at university and return home to a half empty bedroom and a quietness which feels almost alien after years of hectic schedules. Even if your initial experience of this is their first holiday without the family or, as is often the case a gap year or inter-railing for a month with friends or perhaps even on their lonesome it will feel strange. As we let them fly we experience a mixture of pride and satisfaction, a job well done and a feeling of almost sadness tinged with worry. So how can we manage all these conflicting emotions? We have gathered together a few suggestions to help you cope with what is really an exciting time of change and adventure for everyone concerned and remember you are not the only one going through this!
There is nothing wrong with having these emotions - acknowledge how you feel and try to be positive – remember this new found independence can only happen because you have done your job properly. Whilst it is okay to let your child know you will miss them it is also important to share in their excitement - this is a big adventure and the last thing they need is to be worried about how it is affecting you. Occasionally your anxiety may flare up as irritation or anger - take a deep breath and reign it in then explain that all this is a lot to deal with! Do be prepared for some role reversal though as they reassure you that all their plans are in place and that there are back up plans too, just as you taught them! You may have been responsible for them for all these years and handing the reins over a big deal but remember you also trained them too.
When they do go expect to feel conflicting emotions – sadness, what happened to my baby? – Excitement, they have taken the next step, guilt, I am enjoying the peace and relief - reduced washing– all this is ok, it is normal. Plan something to keep you busy. Arrange to see friends, maybe begin a new hobby, and take some time for your relationship. What can you do together now taxi services are not required or exam support. Begin to think about long term goals – what opportunities are out there – now is the time discover who you have become.
Remember that they will return – if they have left for university then they will be back in the holidays and in between if they need some home comforts, maybe even a hug, to see friends and just to catch up. If they have moved into their own home they will still want to come and see you – the balance will change – prepare yourself for having to suddenly accommodate them again but remember they will have their own ways now so a bit of mutual consideration will be required.