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Older married couple in the empty nest phase who just dropped their child at college

Adjust When Your Child Leaves for College: Eight Tips

August 26, 2022
Empty Nest

How To Deal With the Transition of Your Child Leaving for College

You’ve been working towards this moment for 18 or so years—the moment you drop your child off at college. No more car pool, no more packing lunches, no more making sure they don’t miss the bus…they’re on their own. So, where does that leave you and your spouse? Our bet is it leaves you with lots of different emotions swirling around—happiness, grief, worry, and anticipation, to name a few. What will this next chapter look like for them, and additionally, what will this next chapter look like for you?

As you help your young adult prepare for their big move, we want to help you and your spouse prepare for your own transition. Whether you’re beginning this adventure for the first time, or you just moved your last kid to college, we hope these eight tips will help you navigate this change together as a team.

Married couple moving their child into their college dorm

1. Start thinking about the transition now. 

It’s never too early to start considering this transitional period. Start preparing your heart now, and even, start some planning now. Be cautious not to fill up your days and overwhelm yourself, but consider planning a special date night or a celebration trip you can look forward to after you drop your kid off. 

2. Set appropriate boundaries for you and your child.  

As your young adult adjusts to their new home and lifestyle, they’re likely going to have several demands to balance. Instead of reaching out to them daily, give them space to reach out to you. Try checking in weekly, or even writing snail mail they can open as a fun surprise.  

3. Be kind to yourself and each other. 

You and your spouse may share similar emotions, or you may have differing thoughts on this time. Either way, be gentle with yourself if you’re feeling sad, and comfort your spouse if they’re sad, too. You may feel like rejoicing in the excitement of this season. That’s great, too! Most importantly, extend grace to yourself and each other as you move through a range of emotions. 

4. Have something to look forward to.  

Get something on your calendar now your family can look forward to—going to one of the college’s football games together, picking out a restaurant you can try during the first semester, or even purchasing plane tickets for a specific family weekend if your kid is further away.  

5. Focus on your spouse and your other relationships. 

Much of your focus has been on your child and their extracurricular activities, friends, needs, etc. Though they will still need your attention (in a new way), use this time to pour into your other relationships. For example, if you and your spouse are no longer attending Friday night football games, what is an alternative date you can enjoy together? Consider reaching out to friends who have also recently entered this empty nest transition. 

6. Be there for your young adult. 

Inevitably, your child may experience some hard times in the beginning of this transition. Encourage them. Send them care packages. Make sure they know they still have a safe place at home to come back to when needed.  

 7. Consider what’s next.

You will always be your kid’s parent, but your previous role of parenting was only for a season. As your role changes, consider what’s next. What else are you passionate about? Keep your heart open to where the Lord may be leading you and your spouse in this next chapter.  

8. Pray for your child and your family. 

Leverage the power of prayer. As your kid is maturing into a young adult, pray for them. Pray for their physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual needs and that the Lord would meet them in this season. Pray for you and your spouse that you would continually surrender your child to Him and you would have peace in this time.  

What a unique season your family is embarking on. Don’t miss the opportunities to find joy amid the change. You’ve overcome changes and challenges before, and this will be no different. Together, with your spouse, you’ll continue this rewarding marriage and parenting journey.

Your Kid’s at College...What Now?

One place you can get away with your spouse to celebrate and reconnect is at WinShape Retreat—join us for an upcoming Marriage Retreat where you’ll rest, laugh, and have fun together.

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