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Leaving Home for College – Advice from Dublin High Class of 2012 Parents

September 30, 2012

by Michelle McDonald (Dublin High Class of 2012 Parent)

Dublin High Class of 2012

Dublin High School’s Class of 2012 is now a part of Gaels’ past, as the Class of 2013 steps up to take its turn as seniors. A new set of Dublin families is entering college application season, most preparing for the eventual enrollment into higher education or national service.

But while excitement and anticipation abounds, something more difficult is around the corner, the impending process of dropping your students off at college. Sometimes far from home, sometimes close by.

But it is a transitional time and some of the parents who just went through this emotional and significant process wanted to share some of best their advice about the big moment when you bring your child to start the next part of their life and then turn around and walk out the door.

The stories and advice from these Dublin High Class of 2012 parents include public and private colleges and universities, both close to Dublin and across the country. For Class of 2013 parents (and seniors), take a deep breath and read on.

Karin Nealon’s son Joe is attending U.C. Berkeley:

“I was just reading an article over the weekend in Good Housekeeping and I stumbled over this old adage about having children that I thought was very appropriate and true at this time: ‘It’s the only time in your life when the goal of the relationship is separation.’ How heartbreaking it was to leave him at school, but yet, that was what I had been working toward all these years. It’s bittersweet. You’re sad and successful at the same time. Tough emotion – one I’ve never experienced before.”

Mary Lou Bullock’s son Chandler is attending Syracuse University:

“Keep in mind that you haven’t spent the last 18 years raising your child to not take this next step. And be confident that you and the ‘village’ that nurtured him or her have done more than an adequate job preparing them to venture forth.  It’s time for them to cast their own shadow…. They are more capable than you may think, and they WILL thrive.

  • Rely on those who have gone before you. I called upon my sister and friends who had already traveled this road for advice and support. They were all very empathetic, and the hand of experience was very reassuring to me.
  • Read. There are many good books that address the issues we face at this juncture of life. I read “Letting Go ~ A Parent’s Guide to Understanding the College Years,” which covered both the practicalities as well as the more poignant and confounding aspects of the transition to college. It helped me to frame a point-of-view through which to process all of the emotions, and deepened my understanding of the developmental stage and transitions Chandler is facing.
  • Focus on the excitement of starting college, the new opportunities they’ll have, and the growth they’ll experience intellectually, socially and personally, rather than on how much you’ll miss them or will be anxious about them. Keep your mental glass half full and (your wine glass completely full)!
  • Know that technology will help you cope. Email, texting, Skype, etc all lessen the distance and void.
  • Regardless of how far your child is going away from home, this is a major transition for you, your child, and your family. However you choose to deal with the emotions and practicalities of this rite of passage is personal. Just like when we gave birth to our kids, we all ended-up with bundles of joy, but each labor and delivery story was unique. Ultimately, go with your gut, be kind to yourself, and enjoy the ride!”

Geri Cooney’s daughter Charlette is attending Carroll Community College in Maryland:

“Here is a practical tip. Bring a toolbox – in case you have to adjust bunk bed. Power strip and blue painter’s tape come in handy too.”

Cathy West Dale’s daughter Alex is attending Cal State San Marcos:

“Short and sweet is good. Our actual final goodbye could not have been better orchestrated so that I would not lose it. I had been working on a letter most of the summer to give to Alex at goodbye time. It included snippets of advice, the usual, wear sunscreen, eat healthy, get enough sleep. And some quotes from famous people about getting out there and making your mark on the world. And reminders of what a special person she is and that she can do anything she sets her mind to…

“On our way from our hotel to the dorm to say our last goodbye, we made a last minute stop at Target for a few forgotten items. We needed to be at the dorm about 10 am because she was going to a dorm-sponsored breakfast that started then. That was a good segue to make it short and sweet. We got there a little after 10 and Alex had 2 of her roommates wait for her so she wouldn’t have to go alone. I wasn’t expecting this and had hoped to spend a few minutes on the potentially teary goodbye. I suggested the roomies go ahead and Alex could catch up in a few minutes and Alex said no. Roomies obligingly stayed where they were. I was thinking, ok, hmmm, this is it. So we had out hugs and kisses and out we went. I left the letter on her desk for her to read later. Big sigh.

“In hindsight, that was the best way (for me) to go. I felt emotional for the first couple of hours of the long ride back to Dublin, but then was better and happy and excited for her new adventures.

“I do know this; our kids want the attention and fuss and emotion that goes with this transition. Do not hold back on it and even if they act like they don’t want it, they do. Hug and kiss them a lot. Tell them you’ll miss them. Love them.”

Shari Jackman’s son Clint is attending College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts:

“My advice comes from a more practical standpoint, for those who may be sending their child off to a college, far, far away. If your child chooses a college on the other side of the country, or at least a college that requires a plane flight to get there, I suggest that they us their precious suitcase space for clothing that will get them through the first few months of school (which would likely mean warm, winter clothing).  Leave the socks, under-clothing, and toiletries at home (because they’ll need those things when they come home for Thanksgiving and/or Christmas, anyway), and find a Target or other department store in their college town and stock up on a couple of weeks’ worth of those things after you arrive.

“One of the best pieces of advice passed on to me was in regards to their dorm set-up, too. Go to Bed, Bath, and Beyond early in the summer and register for their bedding, towels, trash cans, and other dorm paraphernalia. They have a great “Pack and Store” program that allows your child to pick out what they want from the Dublin store, and you can pick it up at one of their stores close to your child’s university.  When we showed up at the Worcester, Massachusetts store, my son’s merchandise was already loaded into a shopping cart for us.  You do not have to pre-pay, so you can go through what was packed for you and decide if everything is a “keeper,” or if you need to add more. Bed, Bath & Beyond can also pull up most schools’ list of dorm needs, so you can be assured of getting exactly what you need — nothing more, nothing less!”

“When saying goodbye to your child, do your best to be strong for him/her.  For, as excited as they are to start their new adventure, there is always a bit of anxiety, too, as they learn to adjust to being thousands of miles away from you and everything that they know. We parents get to go back to our homes and other family members, and everything that is “normal.”  They are now off on their own, and it is important for them to know that you believe they can do it!!”

Chris Bennett’s son Nate is at the Barrett Honors College at Arizona State University:

“Let your child set up the room – they’ll just rearrange it when you leave anyway. Also, leave time and mental energy to go pick up the things you forgot or that weren’t on the list (in our case, toilet paper). And finally, send your child with some comfort food/snacks to help them make the transition. Goldfish went in our first care package!”

Michelle McDonald’s daughter Annie is at Santa Clara University:

“Have a couple of conversations before you leave. Talk about how your student wants move-in day to go. Do they want your help? Drop-and-go? Make the bed and let them unpack? That room will more than likely be very crowded with a roommate and family moving in at the same time. It’s good to be on the same page. You don’t want to spend your last time together disagreeing or bickering.

“Also, talk about everybody’s expectations about communication. How does your student want you to communicate with them? How often? Do they want you to call? Do you want them to call you? Working out some parameters will help everybody ease into this transition of independence. It’s hard to want to know about all of their new experiences without wanting to intrude on their time.

“Oh, and hug and run!”

Kristen Finn’s Daughter Sarah is at St. Mary’s College of California:

“I think this quote is good not only for our children but for us parents as well: ‘Always remember you are braver than you believe stronger then you seem and smarter than you think.’ – Winnie the Pooh (AA Milne).

“We have all raised our children to be independent and want to move on to bigger and better things. I have always told my kids that I want them to be more successful then their parents.   I think they are on the way to that very thing.”

Patricia Wilcox’s son Ian is attending Willamette University in Oregon:

“Dropping my children off at college was the hardest thing I have ever done. The thing that helped most was making travel arrangements for them to come home for the holidays. It’s so easy to forget that they come home! I make plane reservations right after drop off, so I have something to look forward to.”

Dana Priest’s daughter is attending Academy of Art University in San Francisco:

“I told her that ‘It’s ok to make mistakes and it’s not the end of the world if you do. That is how you will learn to handle things and take care of things the next time. You are not expected to know everything at this stage, that is why you are the student. If you knew how it all worked, you’d be the teacher.”

Mita Hartland’s son Collin is at Colorado College:

“I wrote Collin a letter that I left with him – to say everything I wanted to say to him but could not do it without breaking down. I did not want his last impression of me to be one of sorrow not did I want him to remember the last thing I said to him was make your bed, keep your room clean, etc….

“I remember how excited I was my 1st day of college – I had just moved here from India – so a new culture in a new town, a new school and new friends to make – exciting but scary at the same time.  It was a very similar situation for Collin (like for most of his classmates) as we were leaving him behind in a new town where we knew practically no one – to begin his new life. I also wanted him to have something he could read if he ever needed a little pick me up.

“So that’s my advise for moms – pour your heart put in a letter – he has told me that it has been very inspirational for him and he will cherish it forever!”

Terri Dyer’s son Jeff is attending Oregon State University:

“Dropping your child off at college is a very exciting and humbling experience. Exciting for the new experiences your child will have and humbling to see your child all grown up and learning to live away from home.”

Laurie Achziger’s son Edward is attending Marist College in New York.

“When you drop your sweet child off at college, as much as it hurts to leave them and go home alone without them….have a good cry and then be on your way feeling proud that you raised someone confident enough to leave your nest full of comfort and love, smart enough to be work hard and be accepted into a college where they will mature, grow and learn about life!  You did your job as a parent….now you get to provide comfort and share stuff more like a friend!”

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