The Child You Drop Off at College is Not the Person Who Returns Home

As I count our final days together, I’m trying to stay positive and upbeat, for him. But I’m sad.

I’m not sad because I won’t get to see him. His campus is only a little over two hours from home, so I can easily hop in the car if he invites me. I won’t be holding my breath for that, but I remain hopeful he’ll want to pop home for some weekend visits.

I’m not sad because my house will be empty. I think I need a little space and less stress. It’s no surprise teens can be stressful, and my son hasn’t failed to deliver on the teen mood swings, so a little time taking advantage of self-care will probably do me good.

I’m not sad because he’s fiercely independent, and I know I won’t hear much from him. I really want that for him. I’m glad that I raised him so he doesn’t really need me. He cooks, far better than me. He cleans, well kinda. And he does his own laundry, at least once a month. He won’t be needing to come home for any of those chores.

teen boys in school
The child I drop off will return home as an adult. (Twenty20 @christian_c216)

I’m sad, because I realize that when I drive to campus in three weeks, help him lug in his stuff, help him set it up, and turn and walk away, I am keenly aware that I won’t be seeing that child anymore. The person I drop off won’t be the person who comes home.

I’m leaving a child, and when I see him next he’ll be an adult.

College for us wasn’t so much a decision about sending our son off to ensure that he had a career afterwards. After all, the average college graduate needs nearly 8 months to find a job. And fewer than 50% will be working in a job that requires a degree.

College for us, was about a personal growth journey. It was about putting our son in a safe place where he could learn more; where he could train with a former Metropolitan Opera turned college professor to pursue his dream of performing opera in cities around the world. Where he could learn to manage his life without an assist from dear old mom and dad.

Psychologists tell us that social interactions that occur in college, combined with the intellectual development that occurs in a college setting have a tendency to interact with normal development patterns to produce profound change in our children.

6 Changes in Your Teen During Freshman Year

An ability to manage their emotions.

As college progresses, your young adult will learn to more easily accept what they’re feeling. Instead of avoidance, maturity brings on the ability to acknowledge the emotion and more importantly express more openly how they’re feeling. Some will take a walk to cope, or add exercise; others may take up a new hobby like singing or tackling an instrument.

A giant step toward maturation.

Brain maturation continues after age 18 until about 25. According to science, three critical things happen with twenty year-old brains. First, the connection between both halves of the brain continues to grow allowing for more response to stimuli. Second, our prefrontal cortex becomes more efficient and that means better impulse control. (We can all celebrate that one!) And third, the frontal lobe connects with other parts of the brain which effects your limbic system, which will help control emotions better.

Developing their own identity.

Once you’re not begging your son to wear a button down shirt or encouraging your daughter to keep her hair long, your child might stretch their wings. That’s not to say all parents control their children’s identity, but children have a tendency to emulate mom and dad. As they stretch into adulthood, this can change. So don’t be surprised if they come home with a different look entirely.

Becoming more autonomous.

You’ll no longer be cooking, cleaning, paying the bills, scanning the grade card (well hopefully), and all the other things you helped your teen do. Now is the time they learn to manage life on their own. Expect a few bumps along the way, like missed classes, a poor grade, or not enough sleep.

Relationship skills evolve.

Children form relationships based on need. As they age, relationships become more about give and take and hopefully they are no longer staying in ones that aren’t healthy or right for them. You’ll see your teen become more adept at navigating the intricacies of relationships as these four years progress.

Clarifying life goals.

As your young adults starts to study their major in college, life goals can become clearer. They may even change completely. Be prepared if your child has second thoughts about what they’ve chosen to do; this is all part of the process as their eyes open to other possibilities.

Seventeen more goodnights, and I’m losing my little boy as he’s off to become a man. I won’t lie. I’m grieving, but I’m also looking forward to watching the great man I’m positive he’ll become.

You’ll Also Enjoy Reading:

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About Beth Regrut

Beth Renner Regrut is a marketing/advertising executive and freelance writer. She has won numerous awards for her writing, including her most coveted the Silver Quill Award for “Best Business Writing” from the International Association of Business Communicators. She is a frequent contributor on the subjects of self-care and wellness, addiction, learning differences, and home improvement. Beth currently resides in Louisville, Kentucky with her husband and son.

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