When we told Sarah she could look at any school she wanted, so long as the “fit” was right, we never expected her to end up in Denver. We figured one of the coasts, the one we live near or the one the rest of my family lives near. Some research says that the average distance most college students go from home is 94 miles and that 85% of all students live within a six-hour drive. Our son is a senior at Bentley, just about 100 miles away, but Sarah is 1,884 miles away from our home in Hartford, Connecticut.
We really knew no one in Denver. How would we get her ‘stuff’ moved there and what if she needed something? What if she got sick? Would it be expensive getting her back and forth (thank goodness for Southwest Airlines!). Coping with the move and the separation was successful but held some anxious moments – for her and for us. Like most modern parents, we’ve had to stifle the urge to take care of things for our kids. We’ve tried to be helpful, but to really let her be in the driver’s seat.
So how have we tried to be helpful while she learned to live independently far away from home? We’ve tried to:
- Let her initiate most of the communication, whether texting or video chats or calls.
- Let her work out her own issues. So the roommate situation isn’t perfect or the Resident Assistant is a little weird. We’ve mostly resisted the urge to intervene. We’ve asked, are you looking to vent or are you looking for suggestions? We’ve listened, downplayed the drama and urged patience.
- Make friends with our local Federal Express office. We sent a few boxes initially and several more as we have responded to “Mom, could you send my hockey gear?” or “Could you find that black dress in my closet and mail it? I have a dance I need it for.”
- Use the new technologies - Skyping is great. Video chat feels like you are almost there and you forget the distance.
- Encourage her to advocate for herself. Need a little extra help with that math class? Find a tutor. Want to meet new friends? Look for a new sport or a club to join. Get out there, do it for yourself.
We miss her but the empty nest has some great features!
Connie Williams, parent of future 2015 DU graduate