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The Space Between Us

Student in lawn chair on the Quad

By Roni Weink, Parent & Family Programs Council Member

The first time you hold your child, your world changes.You love, guide, and counsel them…then before you know it, they grow and move away to college. The pride you feel and the time spent preparing for college can put your feelings at bay. But the day you drop them off and leave them at college…your life changes again.

The child who was once your whole world, now has their own world and you must find a way to fit in it. Both of my children chose colleges in different states. I applauded them on their independence and bravery. I taught them all they needed so they could fly, but they were no longer part of my daily life. I cried for months both times my children moved away to college. I felt this void in my heart that I thought would never go away…and I’m not alone.

So what do we do? Parents need to find a new normal, a way to communicate and be in their child’s life without daily face-to-face contact. Honestly, some of the pain is fear and loss of control. But our children are learning to fly, and we have to let them. Many challenges are bound to arise, including What if they get ill? Will they come home for the holidays/summer? Are they eating healthy? Are they making good choices? Are they fitting in?

All of these are your concerns, but your child needs to navigate this big world without your daily input. The space between you just got larger, but the bond can be just as strong. Keep the communication open. Ask questions and let them answer on their own terms. Set some norms for your relationship including how often you would like to hear from them and how. Be thankful for mobile phones and FaceTime.

Take the unique perspective that this is the time to transform your parenting skills and develop adult relationships with your kids. Accept that their choices may not be yours, but every step is a growing lesson for them. Give them the space to grow, make mistakes and learn from their decisions. You’re not there to solve their problems, but tell them you will always be there for them. Encourage them to seek out campus resources like the health or career center, academic advisor, dean, counselor or tutor. This new space is a good space. This is the space that is productive and grows self-confident adults. Flip your perspective and embrace the space, take pride in your parenting, and look forward to your next phone call, text, or Facetime.