Sending Child off to College

Updated on May 11, 2008
M.C. asks from Des Moines, IA
14 answers

Our oldest daughter will be leaving in the fall to attend college. I'm interested in advice/suggestions from other moms who have already been through this. What kinds of things did you do over the summer to help make this transition easier? During the school year? My daughter is very excited and looking forward to this adventure. However, she will be attending school a long distance from our home. (We will probably see her once between August and Christmas.) I would like to send a care package once in a while, but am wondering about any other ideas from moms.

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answers from Minneapolis on

Expect to have a lot of fights. The anxiety of leaving home tends to make people fight to lesson the pain. If you know that is what is going on, it makes it easier to be objective when it happens.

Before our sons leave for college, my husband and I take them out to a nice restaurant and present them with a gift. We acknowledge to them that we know the relationship has changed and assure them that we are here to support and give input when asked, but that they will be free to make their own decisions without having to explain them to us. We celebrate their passage into manhood and independence. So far it has been a wonderful experience. (We will do that for 3 out of six this year.)

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answers from Des Moines on

I haven't actually gone thru this, but when I went away to college, my mom and I had so much fun buying things for my dorm room. Especially with living pretty far from home, you really want your dorm room to feel like home and to be comfortable. Take her shopping and you two pick out some fun things for the room. My mom and I bonded over doing that and we just had so much fun. They have some really neat things for dorm rooms. And being just a few years our of college myself, care packages are still the best things ever! Getting mail while in college is the best present of the day! Send those care packages often...she will love them! Good luck and try to have fun with it!!!

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answers from Minneapolis on

One piece that seems to be forgotten when older siblings go off to college, is the younger siblings. Many times they have a hard time adjusting to their brother or sister leaving 1) because they will miss that relationship and 2) it changes the dynamic in the house. (For example, the next in line is now the "oldest.") They may also feel like they've lost a freind. I'd encourage your daughter to address her siblings, either with special outings before she leaves, or by simply reassuring them that she is "still their sister" and they can "call her anytime." A family picture is might even be fun for everyone to wear sweatshirts from her school to celebrate this milestone. Best of luck to you...mine is starting Kindergarten soon and THAT breaks my heart--can't imagine how you feel. :)

I haven't been through this, so I can't offer much else (sorry!). But I do like the care package idea. I would include things that would make her connection to home easier--phone cards (or cell phone plan that makes it easy to call anytime), disposable cameras or a digital that she can upload and share pics, etc.

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answers from Rochester on

I don't know what it is like yet to send a child off to college, but I remember very well when I went to college (a long way from home). I didn't necessarily fight with my parents but I didn't get along with them as well as I usually did. Looking back I know I was trying to distance myself so it wouldn't hurt as much when I left home. My parents did a great job of planning some big family activities during the summer, but also balanced that with a lot of space for me. My mom took me shopping for dorm supplies, and my dad and I had several lunch dates that summer.
Once I got to college, my parents and I set up a time that worked best for me (Sunday evening after dinner) when we would talk on the phone. My mom also sent me a letter every week (even if it was just a short note to tell me the latest gossip). She also sent a care package at least once a month with homemade cookies and other goodies. She always included something for my roommate and for my close friends. Those care packages made me very popular on my dorm floor!

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answers from Minneapolis on

Who needs the transition Linda, her or you? This is definitely a transition, but it doesn't have to be stressful. Look at her and love her every day. Tell her you love her. Then let her go.

When our children go off to school it's like watching a fledgling fly for the first time. You can be sure that her process will be similar to the multiple 'first-time' events she has already been through... and will go through again and again, just like you did.

Yep ~ your first baby is leaving for college. She will never be the same...

I find that the older my daughter gets (now 20) the more I enjoy her during the stints when she is at home. Having her leave for college gives me more to look forward to: i.e., not cleaning up after her at home and being glad to see her messes when she shows up again :o)

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answers from Minneapolis on

Some of the best things my mom dd while I was away at college were the littlest. She often dropped notes in the mail. They were usually very short, rather silly, and usualy contained something a bit surprising. For example, near Halloween, she sent me a little note. When I opened it, it was filled with bat shaped confetti. See. Silly. But I did love it a lot!

One of my friends used to get coupons or gift certificates for nearby restaurants. Her parents would do a gift certificate to somewhere like Payless, she like it because she could pretty much only get new shoes or a new purse.

Enjoy the new experience. Your daughter is going to have a blast!



answers from Appleton on

might be easier than you think. i was the first and only child to go to college in our family and the only girl. I went to college the farthest away I could so I didn't go home all the time. The transition for both is a lot easier that way. It wasn't until the 2 or 3 year that my grades were awesome, but I loved college and continued to work hard. The first year is hard, she needs to be careful who she hangs out with-not everyone goes to school for the same reasons anymore or with same expectations. Sending mail and packages once in a while is awesome. Especially, baking special things she likes and sending them to eat or share with friends in the dorm. Talking on phone once in a while is good. Just so she knows your there if she needs something, but not necessarily checking in-because she needs to grow up and become a good adult. Hope this helps. If I can give you more ideas, please let me know. Ps. It was tons harder on my parents then on me. It took them 4 years to accept I was an adult (I went to college for 7). later.



answers from Minneapolis on


If your daughter doesn't already know, make sure she can prepare basic meals and clean up after herself. Since she is the oldest of 4, she will probably do fine.

Also, make sure your daughter knows how to handle credit cards. I had a roommate who thought credit cards were like student loans - you don't have to make payments until you graduate. She destroyed her credit record and was swallowed in debt because no one explained to her how they work.

Adult stranger danger talks would be appropriate. The situations are different as an adult living on your own, and hopefully her college will have a police officer or campus security talk to everyone, but there are no guarantees, so you need to do it.

You also need to sit down and lay out some ground rules so there aren't unmet or unrealistic expectations. How much are you helping financially? Who will pay for what? What if she runs out of money at school or gets in over her head with credit card debt? How often will she come back to visit and who will take care of transportation costs? When she comes back, how will the house rules change? Will she still have a curfew? - Make sure you and your hubby are on the same page with all of this before you talk to her about it.

Some of my roommates had parents who liked to stock the fridge for them at the beginning of the semester. It was a generous gesture. If you will be driving her to school, you may want to take a week to stay and see some sights. It may make the transition easier to have you around, but not, for a few days.

I had some roommates who seriously struggled with home sickness. Can I say that the worst thing to do is fly them home all the time or fly out there all the time. They need to learn their independence. Love them, support them, but don't bail them out of learning to become an adult.

Good luck,



answers from Madison on

I too have 4 children, 18, 14, 6 and 4. I sent my oldest son off to College last fall. It was really hard at first since he was my oldest and I have never been through it before!! Contact the College your daughter is going to , they usually have resources and websites and parent email newsletters that give suggestions for parents and children of how to deal with homesickness and seperation. There is also a book that a coworker reccomended to me and I would also highly reccomend!! It is called Give them Wings..I started reading it the Summer before he left for really helped me through!! Here is the link if you want to order it on

I also sent Care packages around Exam sons College even would make them and deliver them for Valentines day etc. right to their Dorm. It is an exciting time for everyone, good luck:)



answers from Minneapolis on

Find out when Mid-term week and Finals are..........then, send fun things in a box~~in addition to the typical cookies from home. Some colleges send you a " care package" form and charge a great sum but you know your daughter best and you know what she likes!! These are very important weeks to let her know that you are wishing her well and supporting her from home.
Also, keep in touch by email. A short Hi from home every morning might be just what she needs as she transitions to college-life.
Do not dwell on how much you miss her~be possitive!!
Good Luck,



answers from Minneapolis on

We are in the final week of the first college year with our oldest. The best advice I received was to make sure that she stayed on campus as much as possible (i.e. "No Car") for the first year. The college even backed us up on this. they have studies that showed that this correlated to a 75% higher graduation rate for those students that spent the first year basically forced to build relationships & establish their place in the campus community. As far as care packages, after decking out her room, most of her requests were for toiletries throughout the year. I didn't know that a $3 canister of shaving cream could equate so much "I love You" (heehee). food is good as well...Just listen to her calls & figure out what will alleviate the little stresses for her (notebooks & looseleaf were some others for us - she under-estimated what she thought she would need....). We went to campus for parents weekend, one of the home football games (non-homecoming). She performed with the marching band, and on a less-busy weekend we were able to spend a bit of extra time with her (hours-not overnight). Her campus also sponsors a "Little Sib's" weekend in the spring. The residence hall council arranged this with activities for younger brothers & sisters, and a chance for them to stay in the dorms with the student and see some of the activities (bowling, swimming, planetarium, cafeteria food, movies, live bands, frisbee golf, etc.)that take place on campus. Many of the sib's were bussed in from all around the state that she is in (we are out-of-state, so we drove...). this gave the college student & their siblings a real chance to bond around the college experience without mom & dad around...i actually stayed in the motel & shopped on my own while my daughter had her brothers with her for most of the time!!! We all watched a short movie in her room around supper on saturday, and had a nice brunch on Sunday before we left - it was SO COOL!!
Our journey has been positive, but there were calls due to homesickness, insecurities about new friendships, how to build relationships, how to better handle finances on an even more limited income, being tired of cafeteria food and an unexpected allergic reation (everything turned out fine)... There were also calls about great grades, new friends, old friends, new skills, new jobs, silly dorm hijinx, and a few old-fashioned "Thank you, Mom - I never knew that xxxxx would come in handy..." She is a stronger person - having her back home for the summer will be interesting... Very best wishes for you & your daughter.



answers from Minneapolis on

Our eldest daughter is finishing college this Dec. in CA and we only see her about twice a year. She left at 17, was very self-directed and has flourished, but at the same time, trying to parent her (mentor might be a better word) long-distance has been tough. The biggest issue has been when she comes home for a visit. Life is so different here, college life so "contrived," that she has difficulty assimilating into our house (five kids still at home). Letting go of some things, while knowing your child still needs you for others, is very stressful. I suggest keeping in regular phone and email contact, sending packages and visiting as often as possible. And keep in mind that as mature as they may seem, teens and young twenty-somethings have minds and emotions that are not fully developed, so behavior can range from amazingly focused to daffy! In general, I have concluded that two years of community college is a better idea for most teens, just to allow for more maturation. And immense patience is required for any teen, no matter what they do after high school!

SAHM of seven - one grad, one grad-to-be, five pending



answers from Cedar Rapids on

Use this time to do things she likes as a adult.

be it the movies,bowling,sking,hiking, shopping, or just jabbering.

Time and quanity matter the most.


PS learn to see her as a dult as i did my son but do not let her over run you as my son does me, some say I need to speak up and when I let him over run me it drove him into the arms of a control freak who has hurt me always and now I fight to even talk to him.

Maybe you two can discuss this ...boundaries.



answers from Davenport on

Hi Linda. Our 'baby' went to University last August - only about 45 minutes drive away. A little different scenario than yours, but it was still difficult cos we homeschooled her till 8th grade and that made for a very very close bond. She had a part time job during senior year and last summer, so the time we had together was very quality-oriented becos we knew she was going away and we would be empty-nesters. We talk a lot on our cells, text, and email to keep in touch almost daily. And on the weekends, she either comes home (at least for one nite) or we go and see her (for at least a few hours) first we saw her about 3 out of 4 weekends and now the last couple months becos of her workload or either of us being busy, we've only seen her twice in 4 weeks. I also send her notes in snail mail so she can receive something in her mailbox at her dorm....just to say 'thinking of you' or 'we love you'. Believe it or not, she does get homesick but we encourage her to keep busy with stuff other than book work - to take a break which she does. Usually after speaking with us she feels better.

When I went away to college (I'm the oldest of 3) from Maui to WA state, my parents and I kept in touch thru snail mail and some phone calls and I think I flew home once in the spring. In the winter, I flew to my cousin's in TX - she was raised on Maui too). Mom sent me care packages cos I was homesick for the Hawaiian foods :) I was far away from home, but I joined the Hawaiian Club so that helped AND it kept me busy.

Last summer, we made lists together and then went shopping together. We were involved in her preparation. We went to the campus visits and orientation and got to know her campus somewhat. We even went to the bookstore the first day she moved into her dorm and were with her when she bought her first couple textbooks....met her roommate and her parents, etc. It was a very quiet ride home tho....I cried.

It's a transition alright, but one that has to be done and if you keep it positive, it should go smoothly. Your daughter is 18, an adult now. It's hard to let go...remember how it was when you left home and try to give her what you would have wanted then.

Hope this helps. Good luck and God bless.


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