by Jenifer Truitt, Executive Director Ziglar Family
It’s here… the day I’ve been counting down to with equal parts anticipation and dread for at least a year: we move my oldest daughter in to her college dorm this week. 😳
To say I’m emotional may be an understatement — I actually teared up at the grocery store last weekend when I picked up the milk and noticed the expiration date was after she’ll be gone! 😭
It’s not that I’m sad; I would say it’s just a big ol’ mixed bag of everything from nostalgia, to anxiety, to excitement, to anticipation… and everything in between.
For the past year I’ve been reading bits and pieces of a great book called The Launching Years: Strategies for Parenting from Senior Year to College Life by Laura Kastner, Ph.D. and Jennifer Wyatt, Ph.D.. I really appreciate the fact that these two doctors have taken the time to share some strategies and tips for parents who are navigating this unfamiliar territory for the first time.
Kastner and Wyatt acknowledge that this launching represents a major life transition, and that parents will go through the typical phases of that sense of loss, followed by a time of confusion and uncertainty, which eventually is succeeded by a sense of a new beginning.
With launching, some parents feel aimless and fragile, while others become frustrated and impatient. If for years and years your mindset has been on parenting, it’s nearly impossible to redistribute those energies overnight…
Although not a hard-and-fast gender distinction, moms seem to spend more time reflecting and emoting prior to launching about “when the kids go” than dads do, perhaps because many moms — usually in the role of primary domestic manager — experience child-rearing on a more immediate level.
Because some dads haven’t done the mental work that moms have been doing all along — the brooding and bracing themselves for how much they’re going to miss their child — fathers are sometimes hit like a ton of bricks by the fallow time, caught up short by the heaviness of their hearts.
Yep… we’re already taking bets as to whether it will be Dad or Mom who loses it first as we say our good-byes. 🙋🏼♀️ 🙋🏻♂️
In addition to the emotions around missing our oldest child when she’s not home every day, I’m also dealing with my concern about whether I’ve adequately prepared her to manage her day-to-day life in the ‘real world.’
I’ve certainly done my best to make sure she’s used every opportunity to learn and grow from any challenges life’s thrown at her so far, but at the same time I’ve been a safety net, close-by and ready to step in if things got a little too dicey. Now, with her living 4 hours away, that safety net is going to be a little harder to activate.
This past January, I started writing a booklet for her entitled Adulting 101. Every day, I’d spend anywhere from 15 minutes to a half-hour writing down some random advice and instruction around topics she might encounter after she leaves home. These included:
- Tips for living with a roommate for the first time
- Managing your sudden newfound ‘freedom’
- Maintaining your health
- Renting your first apartment
- And random other topics as they occurred to me
I invited my network on Facebook to share their best advice for a launching teen, and added those snippets of wisdom to the end of the booklet.
All in all, it turned out pretty well, and I ended up printing out several copies so that I could give one to each of her friends as a small graduation gift… and I know at least a few of them actually read it!
So today, if you are in the same place as I am, launching or soon-to-be launching your first child, and you’d like to have a copy of this booklet to give your teen, I’d be happy to share it with you. Just email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let me know you want one, and I’ll send it right away. (I’ll email you the PDF – you can either print it out or just give it to your teen in e-form.)
If you’re a more seasoned parent, and you’ve already survived the first launch, or even multiple launches, and you can share some comforting words of advice, or even wisdom about ‘what life is like after the launch’ – please do! I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
(And yes, knowing that the next time I’ll write a blog post is after she’s already gone is choking me up! 😢)