I cried when my son went to Kindergarten. I cried when he transitioned from elementary to middle school and from middle school to high school. When it was time for him to go off to college, I was *this* close to packing up my bags and moving to the city where he was headed to school (don’t judge me)! As much as I was proud of and thrilled for my young man in all these transitions, it was bittersweet. Watching our kids grow up and having them leave the nest can be hard. Change can be hard, and how to survive sending your child off to college may seem like a daunting task. Take it from me; your child will thrive, you will survive, and eventually, you will come to enjoy this next chapter in your life. 

Focusing on the positive parts of watching the human you poured everything into, take those lessons and head out to apply them in the world. There may still be tears, but maybe they can be happy ones. Here is our best advice for making the transition to college just a little less stressful and anxiety-ridden for you and your teen. Single moms who already experienced this transition also weighed in. 

Kim shares her story of sending her son off to college and tips on how to survive this milestone moment for other moms preparing for the same. How To Survive Sending Your Child Off To College

Plan Ahead

Take control of your experience by planning ahead for as many things as you can. Take a tour of campus together if you haven’t already, and check out the resources that are available for students beyond academics. Venture out into the city or town around the university together. Take in the area and assess what your teen might need to access most often, like the nearest convenience store, grocery store, or local cafe. If they have issues that require regular medical attention, help them find a local doctor and the nearest pharmacy. Purchase and order whatever they’ll need to feel most comfortable in their dorm room. Once your teen has left for college, there won’t be much that’s within your control. You’ll feel more comfortable knowing you set them up for success before they left home. 

Spend Quality Time Together

You won’t get to see your child or spend time with them as often once they’ve left for college. Make sure the quality time you spend before they leave is meaningful. My son and I started going on mommy + son dates when he was very young. We made sure to schedule several over the summer leading up to his going away. We took road trips to nearby cities that we love, planned beach days, and went out for sushi together.

Find the things you and your child enjoy together, and do as many of those things as you can. Enjoy them one-on-one, or include their siblings and do things as a family. The goal is to create memories you can both hold onto during your time apart from your college student. My son has graduated from college and is a working adult living in another state. But even now, we continue those mother + son dates whenever he visits home. 

Take Advantage of Technology

Tons of generations left home for college without the benefit of technology to help them keep in touch. Technology has made it infinitely easier to reach out to the people we love today. So find new ways to communicate with your teen while they’re away. Maybe you set up a specific number of FaceTime or video calls per month. Maybe you exchange information via email. Or you might send funny videos or memes via text. Talk with your teen and decide together on a way to keep in touch that allows them independence and room to adjust to their new daily norm. This will also help you feel comfortable that they’re happy and safe. 

I used social media and text as creative ways to keep in touch with my son while he was at college. I downloaded the Snapchat app, and we used a quick daily “snap,” or photo message, as “proof of life,” so to speak. Being able to see his face and know that he was okay without us having to have a long conversation. And it was fun engaging in a Snapchat “streak” (number of days sending each other snaps without missing a day) with him, something that he was already doing with his friends and felt comfortable including me in.

We also started a group chat that included a few family members. We primarily used it to share light updates and fun videos that everyone could enjoy and respond to at their leisure. Many of us are now living in different states, and we still have that family group chat as a means of connecting. 

Focus On Your Other Relationships

Sending a kid off to college offers you the opportunity to connect with other people in your life. Focus on the other relationships you have. If you have a partner or someone you’re dating, this is an excellent opportunity to rekindle your romantic partnership and take the time to do things you may not have had time for while you were ushering your teen through those final years of school. Go on more dates! Take a trip together! If you have other children still at home, you’ll have more time to share with them and build stronger relationships with them before it’s their turn to leave the nest. And if said nest is now empty, you can focus on spending more time with close friends or family members. 

I got married and gave birth to another child in the same year my son headed off to college. Our family went through a lot of transition that year. Having my husband and our new baby to focus on really helped me get through the sadness I felt about my son going away to school. 

Be Confident About Your Parenting 

You did that, Mama! You raised a whole human, instilled knowledge in them, fostered their positive attributes, and loved them unconditionally. Trust that you did your job and have prepared them well for this next phase of their lives. 

Sonya celebrates her son and shares her feelings about sending him off to college. Sonya, a mom of two, including an 18-year-old headed to college, said, “I have so many emotions! I am excited for my son to start his new journey in life. He is moving 20 hours away from me to go to college in New Orleans to attend XULA to study premed. He wants to be a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon. I am so proud of the man he is and the man I know he will become.

I have poured everything I have in me into him and his baby brother, which includes; love, confidence, respect, religion, knowledge, experience, guidance, self-awareness, understanding, empathy, sympathy, kindness, weakness, strength, and so much more. I poured into him so that he can be successful in whatever he chooses in life! As his MOM, I did my job. Now our reward is he is leaving the nest to pursue his goal of becoming a surgeon, which makes me extremely proud of both of us, but my heart is broken! 

We have prepared for him to leave home for the last 18 years. To be the man God has meant for him to be. And sadly, I am not ready to let him go! A piece of me feels broken because I succeeded as a Mom!

It’s okay to be proud of your new college student and be heartbroken because they’re leaving home. Both things can be true during this time, which is bittersweet for many moms. 

Lean Into a New Identity

For 18 years, your identity has been largely wrapped up in the role of “mother.” And while you’ll always be a mother, having your child leave home to make a life for themselves offers the chance for you to embrace a new identity. Whether you decide to lean into work, or fill your time with other enriching activities, find ways to do things that are just for you! Figure out who you are besides a mom!

Farah, a single mom of two and now an empty nester, offers this advice, “Being a single mother brings a different type of sadness when your child leaves for college because, for so long, your identity was tied to being a single mother, and now it’s time for a new identity. It’s time to fill that empty space. It’s time to reinvent yourself and get your groove back. Turn that sadness into joy and peace.

Farah shares how she survived sending her child off to college. Be Their Support System

Your teen is headed toward adulthood, but they will always be your baby! And while they will need you in different ways than before, they’ll always need a support system. Whether it’s being available as a sounding board, to offer advice, or to be a soft place to land when things get especially tough, you’ll still have opportunities to be there for them. Let your college-bound teen know you are just a phone call, road trip, or plane ride away. You are not abandoning your role as their #1 cheerleader.

Farah says, “My youngest, my baby, recently graduated from high school, and he reminded me that he is a grown man. He will always be my baby, but on the flip side, he is an adult. He is an adult I raised with great morals, which brings me peace. This next phase does not sadden me because I feel like I have been there, done that, lol.

My oldest graduated a few years ago and went to college in Ohio. I was fine as we prepared for him to get ready for school. As we drove to his new phase of life, I was fine. As we set up his room, I was fine. I WAS NOT FINE when I had to get in the car without him. I teared up, then shed many tears.

My peace came from knowing that my child would be okay because I was a phone call and a two-hour ride away. I was also at ease because I raised a fabulous human ready to stand on his own. He was ready to make his own choices. I also had to be prepared for the not-so-great decisions as well.

How did you survive sending your child off to college? How did you cope? Share with us in the comments.