The separation process is a natural process and a mutual one for the student
and the parent. Separation does not mean that they are gone forever, it means
that you have raised a fully competent young adult who is capable of functioning
without you. Strange as that may seem that is the definition of parenting.
Separation does not involve a release of connection, it is the ultimate test of
how good a job you did as a parent. Sure, they'll be bumps in their road, but
weren't there a few in yours?
Many times a student will go off to college and be stuck in a sort of limbo
relationship with their parents. They want to keep their relationship the same
but at times they want to sever it completely. Thoughts like: "Well I'm on
my own now, what can I get into?" are just as common as, "Boy, I sure
miss Mom, I never realized how nice free laundry and a chauffer were."
After this there are two basic directions the relationship can go. You've
both come to terms with the seperation, they've settled in and you've figured
out how to mow the lawn yourself. Now is a delicate time. Your child may argue
with you in order to establish a unique sense of self. That's stupid, but,
depending on the child, it may happen. The other way that we hope this goes is
for you both to comfortably settle into a routine. You call once a week, month,
whatever. They may fuss about this every once in a while but they really want to
hear from you, find out what's been going on and just keep in touch with life,
Its at this point that you'll both start feeling a bit of nostalgia. Students
may push this aside with busy schedules and college life but hopefully they'll
deal with it. The easiest way for you both to deal with nostalgia is talking.
Whenever you call insert a few comments like, "I drove by your old high
school today, it seemed strange not to be picking you up any more." They
may moan, and groan, but by expressing your mutual feelings you will avoid
feelings of guilt or anger. Your child will also be less likely to think that
they made a mistake in deciding to go to college.
As the saying goes, "Everyone becomes their father/mother." Your
child will occasionally think to themselves, "That sounded just like
something Dad would say." The reality of what's going on is your children
adopt many of the same qualities and faults that they saw in their parents while
growing up. Make sure that they realize being "like" one's parent
doesn't mean being an extension of one's parent. You may hold the same values
and even both like anchovies on your pizza but you'll never be identical. That's
ok, as parents you try to instill the best parts of your character into your
children's lives. Unfortunately, by observation, many of the bad characteristics
are picked up as well. When you see one of these in your child's life, realize
that you haven't dealt with it either.
The ultimate goal is to establish a relationship that is special once your
child has reached this point. You should both know that you are able to function
separately while still retaining a special connection. And when it comes time
for Christmas break they'll be willing and eager to come home to family,
traditions, and parents again.