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LETTING GO: 6 TIPS FOR PARENTS OF FIRST-YEAR COLLEGE STUDENTS

Choose Joy and Let Go with Grace

Letting go of adult children can be complicated and hard to navigate a new way of parenting. When my oldest child left for college, I was surprised by the emotions that followed. I remember the sadness I felt as I drove away from her campus. After about three weeks of vacillating between feelings of joy and sadness, my tears subsided and I embraced the new season. Looking back, I realize I wasn’t prepared for the transition and it could’ve been easier.

Seven years have passed since my daughter left for college, and I have grown in many ways during those years. I’ve learned that letting go isn’t something to be dreaded.

Letting go can be smooth and fairly easy when we realize that endings are precisely where beginnings are birthed.

An ending is the necessary place to step into an exciting new beginning.

In June, about seven weeks ago, I let go of my youngest child, Thomas, as he moved away to begin a summer class and football training at college. It’s been an easy transition because I prepared ahead of time through much prayer and choosing to focus on the great things ahead for us.

Saying goodbye to my son went as smoothly as possible. Minutes before we left Thomas, I hugged him longer and tighter than usual. He said, “I love you” in a subdued tone. Determined to keep my composure, I said, “I love you, too. I know you’ll do great!”

As we were leaving, I could see a little bit of nervousness in my son’s eyes. The normal mothering thoughts were running through my head. “How can my little boy be grown up?” It’s hard to believe he’s ready to spread his wings and fly on his own.” I purposefully pushed those thoughts out of my head. And hand in hand with my husband, we walked away from Thomas.

Everything in me wanted to turn around, walk toward my son, and “mother” him in the way I had his entire life. But I resisted that urge. I knew that the sooner I could let go, the better off I would be, and then Thomas could move on to becoming a true man.

Walking toward the car, I was thinking, “He’s becoming a man in the truest sense…I know the next time I see him, he will be different and more mature.”

In that moment, I sighed deeply and I released Thomas to God completely. In my head, I prayed, “He is Yours, Lord. Keep watch over him for me.”

Even though my heart had a tinge of sadness, I didn’t allow myself to focus on what was behind us. God’s grace covered me in those moments of letting go. In 2 Corinthians 12:9, it says, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

God’s grace is truly sufficient to carry us through anything. His grace carried me through the process of letting go of my son.

My prayers from the previous months had been answered. God had prepared my heart to leave my son at a college eight-hundred miles away from home.

Amazingly, our drive home was filled with utter joy. My husband, Michael, and I talked about all the new things ahead for us and for our son as we drove through the beautiful Ozark National Forest on our way home. One of the highlights of our trip was a picnic at the Natural Dam in Arkansas. After a fun trip and hours of driving, we reached our empty house, and there was an indescribable peace instead of sadness.

As the weeks went by during the summer, Thomas had some tough moments while he adjusted to a completely new life.  With the Lord by his side, he pressed through the feelings of homesickness and persevered until college began feeling like home after about four weeks of being there.

Thankfully, we had acquired ‘Sky Miles’ with Delta, so we let Thomas come home on an airplane to visit before his fall semester. When we greeted Thomas at the airport, I saw the difference in him that I had foreseen on the day we were saying goodbye back in June. He had grown and matured already. He said, “I know Tulsa is where I’m supposed to be.” He’s excited to go back to his new home in a few days. And as his mom, I am ecstatic that God answered my prayers for him.

With having such a smooth transition, I would love to share a few tips that made the adjustment easy for me.

1. Pray often.

Praying with my husband every day helped more than anything. Every time a fearful thought would come to my mind, I would ask Michael to pray with me. Together, we have prayed every day for the Lord to be with our son and protect him. The peace that comes through prayer is simply amazing.

2. Choose a scripture to meditate on.

Meditating on scripture is a practice that my grandmother taught me. Prayer coupled with meditating on God’s Word is powerful. I chose a verse in Deuteronomy to meditate on and shared it with Thomas as he was leaving. In Deuteronomy 31:6, it says, Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” This verse gave me confidence to know that Christ would be with Thomas every moment of every day.

3. Choose Joy and focus on the new beginnings.

Staying grateful and focused on the positive aspects of a situation brings light to the most difficult transitions. I have chosen to be joyful and embrace all the great things I have to enjoy. I could make a long list of the exciting things about having an empty nest. The best thing is having so much quality time with my husband. Michael and I feel like we’ve gone back in time and regained the freedom of our youth. With our children grown now, the possibilities for new beginnings are endless!

4. Write a letter.

The week before Thomas left, I put my heart and soul into writing a letter that recapped my best memories of his childhood. As I wrote the letter, it enabled me to release the past and to begin looking forward to the future.

5. Trust that your college-age child is capable of making good decisions.

Years ago, I heard Ruth Graham talk about how to raise teens. She encouraged parents to lecture less and give teens the room to make choices on their own. Ruth’s words helped me to have the courage to trust Thomas to begin making wise decisions. Sometimes the only way a person can grow is by learning from their own decisions and mistakes.

6. Resist hovering. 

To hover over our child after he has left home makes the transition harder for him. At a college orientation meeting, the speaker advised the parents not to call their children too often. If we are constantly checking on them, it will be very hard for our grown children to learn to be responsible adults.

LORD. HELP MY SON BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS

A PRAYER

Dear Lord,

Thank You for helping us to raise our children and helping us to be brave enough to let them go when it’s time. Help us to choose joy as we let go and give us the grace we need to get through the difficult moments.  Hold us close when we’re missing our children and let it be an exciting season of new beginnings. I pray in Christ’s name. Amen.

PHOTO CREDIT: My daughter shot the photo of the balloons in the sky and the photo of my son, Thomas.