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It's time to grow up ... Letting go of your college kid

You've spent, what seems like a lifetime, getting to know teachers, checking papers, attending ball games, or making sure those teeth are brushed. But, when your baby suddenly turns into a college student, it's time to let go.

Here's some advice. The first time you meet your child's junior English college professor should be at graduation. Don't ask to see the term paper unless your child offers. Don't embarrass your son by showing up at his intramural soccer game. And, if she doesn't know to brush her teeth by now ...

It's hard to break old habits, and it's hard to let our children learn lessons the hard way. We are the "helicopter" parents — always there, always at their beck and call. We always want to break their falls, help them be successful ... and we always want to parent them no matter what their age. But, that doesn't help them learn responsibility.

Recently, my 22-year-old told me to quit being such a "mom" and, I have to admit, that's hard to do. It's a role I find hard to relinquish, and I'm sad when I think that my children just don't need me any more. But the truth is, they still love me, and they just need me in a different way.

So, it's time for all of us with older kids to learn to accept this new stage because there is something just as special about this time as there was when your child was a newborn.

Here's a few tips to help you with this transition.

  1. You will always be a parent, but your role will change. Accept your new role as a friend, and enjoy your new freedoms.
  2. Encourage your child to pursue his or her own interests. No need for him or her to come home every weekend. This is the time for your child to explore possibilities and engage in learning a new environment. What a wonderful opportunity!
  3. Don't call every day. Don't text every hour. Let your child take the lead. Let your child be in the driver's seat when it comes to how much contact you have with him or her. You will be surprised, and he or she won't feel like you are being intrusive.
  4. Give support. Give your child the tools to be successful (the computer, the books), but you are only hindering their efforts if you do the writing or the math. Plus, haven't you already been there, done that?
  5. Let them make their own decisions. Spring break, roommates, classes, clothes, haircut, job, major, friends, music, books. Let your child make choices. It's not your life. If it's not hurting anyone, it's OK.

Written by Kelly, mother two college kids. Kelly is slowly learning to let go.

February 2012