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Sunday, August 14, 2016

"My Child Just Went to College." What Now?

“My child just went to college.”

Oh, I know the feeling! We live more than 4,000 miles away from where our kids went to college. Our daughter left home at age seventeen, and our son had just turned eighteen. I will never forget watching our daughter walk into her dorm . . . and we drove away, soon to get on a plane . . . .

No one who’s done it says it’s easy!

But, you know what? Each child who flies out of the nest is beginning something important—and so are you—and so are any siblings left behind.

The child who went to college as an insecure, lost little freshman will, in about two years, be an adult who’s well on his way to the degree and career he has in mind. He might have met his significant other. He might have already gained some practical work experience. He will have found out who he is in the much bigger scheme of things. You are giving him the opportunity to be on his own—yet under supervision—and he’ll thank you for it. Your “child” is becoming a man or woman, and that’s just as it should be.

You are learning to trust God in a way you never needed to before. Your little bird was coddled, fed, and nurtured while he was in the nest, but now, it’s his grand opportunity to learn to fly. You stand by, craning your neck from the edge of the nest, and you watch him try. You'll get some unique phone calls. You'll hear about a certain professor and her “impossible” tests. You'll send money—all the while praying that your son will remember to brush his teeth, use deodorant, and match his clothes as you taught him. When he returns at Christmas or next summer, your little child is a man. When did this happen? Kudos to you, Mama Bird! You let him grow up.

We have two children, so we’ve only experienced this once personally, but I’ve watched it happen many times in other families: the elder child goes off to college, and the next in line rises to take over in sibling leadership. He grows, gets more responsible, changes . . . doing his best to fill big brother or sister’s shoes. It’s crazy to watch: all of a sudden, Little Bro. becomes Big Bro. And, that’s how it should be! Each child gets the opportunity to lead and prepare himself for his own future outside of the nest.

I am glad your son or daughter has this tremendous educational opportunity. I’m glad you let him try to fly.

Here’s a little bit of advice for you as you adjust to the new reality in your family nest:
  1. Be available when he calls. Tell him he may call any time he needs to. Don’t call him but once in a while. (This is my own opinion. It’s okay if you do this differently.) When your child is away in college, he needs to know you’ll be there for him any time. He does not need to get a call (often) from Mama during study time or when he’s with his friends. It will make him resent you. You want to continue to build your relationship with your grown child, but you don’t want to “helicopter” him.
  2. Just a suggestion: e-mail or text him every day to keep him up on any important goings on back home and to assure him of your love and prayers. (My daily e-mails to our kids were usually a paragraph or less.) Don’t write a book or use your child as your confidant. (He has lots of books to read, and he doesn’t need unnecessary emotional pressure from home.)
  3. Concentrate on those children you still have at home. Your work’s not done (unless your nest is empty). Help the next child be ready to fly when it’s his turn. Train. Invest your energy in your younger ones. Don’t forget big brother or sister, but help these kids rise to the top. Above all, don’t make the younger children feel like you’re always crying over the one who has gone. (If you need to shed tears, try to cry in private. I remember one day . . . . It hits you at the weirdest times!)
  4. If your last child just went to college, you might enjoy my post about the empty nest. You can access it here
In an effort to prepare our children for adulthood, my husband and I taught them all along that they would be expected to pay their own way after they graduated from college. We wanted them to be willing to work, and more than that, mentally prepared to be independent adults. We told them they would be allowed to come back home after graduation, but they would be expected to pay for rent, food, and their own car. (They didn’t come back home to live, but they love to visit.) Our daughter began teaching after college, and our son worked and earned his master’s degree. A few years after graduation, both of them had met their spouses and were married. 

I believe it’s a shame what’s happening in the world today. Young people aren’t prepared for being independent adults. They don’t have life skills (cooking, mechanics, handling finances), and they aren’t prepared for working hard and making do. They want everything done for them. They think it’s just great to let Mama cook and for Dad to pay the lights, water, and house payments. Many don’t have goals—or their goals are so pie in the sky . . . .

Let’s be different! Let’s actually prepare each child to be a responsible, independent adult. You’ll be glad, and so will they.

Your child just went to college? Great! Pray for him, support and encourage him, and be glad for him. When things are tough, help him figure out how to work through them. Stand by and watch your son or daughter grow up!

That our sons may be as plants grown up in their youth; 
that our daughters may be as corner stones, 
polished after the similitude of a palace (Psalm 144:12).


  1. Enjoyed this timely article. Thanks Lou Ann.

  2. Thanks so much for this post. It is on my heart and mind. In less than 2 years we will be taking two to college. We will be state side their first year, but still hard none the less.

    1. Thank you, Jackie. Two at once! Glad you can be nearer that first year. God bless you!


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