In two weeks we are sending our first daughter to college.
She is the oldest of our four children. We are a very close family and my daughter has an especially close bond with her younger sisters and brother.(15, 12, and 7)
Although we are very excited for her new opportunity, we are all naturally having anxiety with this separation.
Could you kindly share any advice on this upcoming transition?
From: Lisa, Belmont
I’d suggest finding a way to ritualize her departure. For instance, asking everyone in the family, including you and your daughter, to write down what they would like to do to mark the occasion of her leaving. Presumably, each person’s idea not only will reflect something unique about their relationship to her but also will reflect your family’s personality and values.
Then you can look at the possibilities together, as a group, and choose, or it could be your daughter’s decision to choose. Maybe you will be able to do more than one of the ideas -- maybe you do a week’s worth of ideas, one each night for the week before she leaves. Maybe smaller groupings surface, for instance, the sisters have a sleep-over in her room.
The possibilities don’t have to be expensive or elaborate: An evening looking at her baby pictures, or family videos, followed by ice cream; a game night. Keep it light and have everyone write a limerick in her honor. Perhaps each person chooses a belonging that’s unique to them for her to take away as a reminder of the best (and most annoying?) things she’s left at home. A pair of smelly socks come to mind. Perhaps she has some small personal item to leave for each person.
The point is to commemorate the event in a way that honors the pride you all have in her and your wishes for her success and happiness at the same time that you acknowledge (but don’t over do) the hole her absence will leave. One mother and father I know hung streamers on all the interior doorways the night before their daughter was leaving for college. It was silly and over the top and made everyone laugh but it was also bittersweet: it was what they had done for birthdays when their children were young.
One of the lovely things about ritualizing this event is that your younger children can look forward to something similar for their departures.
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