The Emotional Rollercoaster of Sending Your Teen to College

Oh, hi there, new college mom. 

It’s me — the woman who was in your shoes last year.

I’m in the same shoes right now because I have another high school senior, so you know; here we go again. The nerves. The anxiety. The fear. (Them AND us, right?)

I’m here for you. I got you covered.

First, remember that worrying is like walking around with an umbrella, waiting for it to rain. I excel at this, so honestly, I mean it when I say take a deep breath. And one day at a time.

mom and daughter hug
Here is my best advice for first-time college parents. (Twenty20 @jharrisj)

10 tips for parents who are preparing to send their teens off to college

1. Your teen is going to college

Take a moment to celebrate this. Just bask in it for a few minutes before panicking about twin x-long sheets. Go out to dinner. Give lots of hugs (if they let you), look at your baby, and pat yourself on the back. You did good.

2. Okay. Done celebrating

Now start googling. Kidding. But do reach out to friends who have walked your walk because you want an excellent packing list ready. But don’t fret. It’s only January. No need to rush this.

3. Let your senior enjoy the rest of their senior year

It goes by super quickly. Before you know it, you take prom pictures, attend senior night activities, and order the yearbooks. 

4. See above

Don’t start talking about college stuff too prematurely. They may be happy with their college choice. They may still be reeling over the fact they didn’t get into their top choice. Maybe they’re going cross country to school and feeling angst and excitement all at the same time. Let them feel all the feels because you’re probably feeling them too. Enjoy the days with them under your roof. 

5. Come May, you can start clipping coupons

Because now is the time to take advantage of the list that perhaps you’ve already started working on. Remember, organization is your friend. (Think under bed boxes, extra storage drawers, little nightstand thingamajigs that clip on under the mattress and hold your phone)

6. Roommate angst

Something else not to worry about prematurely. It is what it is. They will either like their roommate or they won’t. Or somewhere in between. Roommates don’t need to be best friends. They need to cohabitate and be respectful. If they aren’t besties, they will meet friends in other ways. 

7. Parent pages

Helpful and not so much. They are great for learning about local restaurants, whether I should rent the refrigerator and micro combo, the best dorm for freshmen, etc. But take things with a grain of salt. Everyone finds fault in something. The food sucks, the dorms smell, the professors aren’t communicating well, and I don’t like what the school president said at the meet and greet. Try to not harp on the negative comments and take away the positives. 

8. Again. Utilize your friends with older children

They’re the best resources (especially on what to pack).

9. Start taking a step back.

I know this is a hard one. Your baby is leaving for college. They will no longer be under your roof, knowing where they are and what they’re doing. But it would be best if you did this — remember that you have raised them for almost 18 years, and now it’s time to let them figure some stuff out on their own. Believe me, they’re still calling you to ask about doing laundry, but you may want them to practice this before — let’s say, September 1st

10. And finally, there are tears

Maybe not for all of you but there were loads for me. I was strong until he had to say goodbye. To leave me in the bleacher stands as we watched the new class of 2026 follow each other into their orientation groups and learn to navigate a whole new life.

This is hard. For your students. For us parents. We get sentimental. We may, hypothetically, go home, look at baby pictures and cry as we pass their empty bedroom. You may cry because you have no idea if they’re doing okay. Are they sitting alone in the cafeteria? Are they feeling good vibes from their roommate? Did they wear their new flip-flops in the shower?

It’s tough. The unknown. But this is the time we need to let them fly. And to figure it out. We have to fail sometimes. We must learn to try different approaches and new activities and put ourselves out of our comfort zone. It’s called life. And just because your babies aren’t babies anymore, they will always still be our babies. 

More Great Reading:

How to Help Your College Freshman When They’re Homesick

About Abby Stern

Mom to two; married to one. Most proud of my kids and the art of perfecting my homemade blondies. I can be found on Facebook at Eat the frosting first ranting about motherhood, breast cancer and being a grown up.

Read more posts by Abby

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