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Bond with your child even more - when they leave for college

Author says ties can strengthen between parent and child if communication stays open

When a child leaves the nest to begin college out-of-town, it can be a traumatic time for both the child and the parent. The child may be away from home for the very first time in their young lives, and the mother or father may feel alienated, in a sense being "fired" from a job they've held for the past 18 years. Not to worry, says noted author Janine Sherman. She says that in fact, you can bond even more closely to your son or daughter if you keep the lines of communication open at this important time in your child's life.

When a child leaves the nest to begin college out-of-town, it can be a traumatic time for both the child and the parent. The child may be away from home for the very first time in their young lives, and the mother or father may feel alienated, in a sense being

When a child leaves the nest to begin college out-of-town, it can be a traumatic time for both the child and the parent. The child may be away from home for the very first time in their young lives, and the mother or father may feel alienated, in a sense being "fired" from a job they've held for the past 18 years.


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "While she was in high school, my daughter and I had a wonderful relationship marked by great communication, and I felt that it would continue unchanged. What I did not understand was that she was setting out on her own new adventure, trying to separate from her parents and becoming independent in her new role as a college freshman," Sherman says.

Sherman noted that the first few months with her child away were difficult. "In fact, the only way I talked to her was if I made the call, and then only if she answered the phone. When we did talk, I got very little information about the big new world she had entered. I realized that her lack of communication was her way of breaking away from home, and she needed me to back off a bit."

Sherman lists five important steps to stay connected to your child in college.
 
1. Let your child know how you feel about staying in touch.
"When I didn't let my daughter know how I was feeling about our new relationship, our conversations would become argumentative, and we would both hang up the phone feeling upset. I finally explained to my daughter that it was okay if she did not want to give me every little detail about her life. After all, she was now an adult living on her own and I respected that."

2. Use social media channels.
"Although sending your child to school with a nanny cam or a GPS tracking system on their phone or car may be a tempting thought, it would be a very bad idea. However, you can try to be friends on Facebook." My daughter set up my Facebook page months before, but I rarely ever looked at it. After she left for college, this became a great way to feel connected. We would write messages on each other's walls and she would direct me to her pictures so I could see her new friends.

3. Write letters letting your child know you are thinking of them and you miss them. "I usually add a little gift card or some fun goody. Once, I sent her a Halloween garland to hang on her door. My favorite thing to enclose is self-addressed stamped post cards with a series of questions so that my child only has to check a box or fill in a word."

4. Set up specific phone dates.
"For instance, a friend of mine told me every Tuesday they would talk on the phone at 8 a.m. over a cup of coffee. This gave them a predictable time to connect one on one."

5. Plan a visit. "You can't visit your child every weekend nor should you, but most schools have a parents' weekend which you should mark on the calendar as soon as you know the date. Parents' weekend for us was a real learning experience."

In summation, Sherman says that the "good news is that this transition is the beginning of a new phase in both of your lives. It's the start of your child becoming an independent adult. When I gave my daughter more space, her calls home came more frequently and the conversations became more detailed. Now we rarely go a day without talking to each other. Although our relationship is different, we still share a strong bond, and when we are together we have a great time."

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Keywords: College, child leaving, empty nest, parents, communication



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