Saying Goodbye to Your College Kid Without Turning Into a Blubbering Idiot, Again

I published this article several months ago when I had to kiss my college-aged son goodbye and send him back to college after a long and wonderful Christmas break. Now, after an even longer and more wonderful summer break, I find myself in the same predicament.

Only this time it’s even harder.

When he leaves in a few days, he’ll be starting his senior year of college, and he is right on track to graduate next May. Yep. That means this was his last official summer at home from college with us. Next year, his plan is to line up an engineering job, graduate, and start working said job immediately afterward, which possibly means moving somewhere far from here.

That’s okay. I can deal with that – eventually. Right now, I’m trying to avoid the blubbering-idiot thing and just enjoy the few days we have left with him at home.

So here is a recap of my earlier article. I hope it helps you maneuver through this upcoming time of saying goodbye to your college kid.

Hmm. A road trip may be on the horizon.


Well, I did it again. I said goodbye to my son and sent him back to college this past weekend. You’d think I would be good at this by now. I have done it over and over again with two children. But no matter how many times I do it, it always has the same effect on me.

To say that it’s gut-wrenching may be a bit over dramatic. I did hug him far too long, and I kissed his beautiful, square jaw a ridiculous number of times. He just stood there patiently waiting, hugging me back, until finally I stopped kissing and released him from the mom vice grip I had on him.

Of course I knew this was coming. In fact, I have been preparing for it for many years.

When babies are born, we immerse ourselves in caring for them, holding, feeding, changing, teaching, changing again, feeding again, and on and on. But then they do this unbelievable thing – they grow, and grow, and GROW.

No matter how many times we witness the phenomenon, it always seems to amaze parents, grandparents, and every other adult in society. Children grow, and grow, and then something really weird happens. They become tall enough to look you in the eye. Eventually, some even wind up taller than you are. My son is now 6’ 4” tall. I get a crick in my neck just looking up at him.

For some reason, the teen years really throw us for a loop. Maybe it’s because, in some cases, the kids are taller than we are. I must admit, when my son crested that 6 foot mark sometime before age 13, I had to get accustomed to looking up at someone whose diaper I had changed.

Parents of teens are in a difficult phase in their lives, and perhaps that’s why so many people have problems dealing with it. The 7 teen years (and really only the first 5) are the last official years of their childhood. THE LAST YEARS OF THEIR CHILDHOOD! We grapple with the knowledge that they might not need us anymore. We have the impending doom of knowing our job is drawing to a close, and some of us are just not ready for that to happen.

When teens make their inevitable bid for independence, we frequently misunderstand it and label it as “rebellion.” We don’t want them to not need us anymore. But the fact is, that’s what we should want most of all – for them to become responsible, self-sufficient human beings who know how to manage in this big, wide world, without Mom and Dad holding their hands.

When my son left on Saturday, I fought the urge to break down and sob. I kept reminding myself I still had my husband and my daughter here with me, so that helped a whole lot. I prayed for his safety. I stayed very busy all throughout the day. I made an effort to keep my mind occupied enough not to dwell on the fact that my second child was all grown up and leaving us again to finish his junior year of college.

And that is a very good thing! He is happy, most of the time. (Except in circuits class, but who could blame him?) After all, isn’t that what we as parents want? We want them to be happy and to do great, just not so darn quick!

But it is quick. Quicker than we can sometimes handle, but handle it we must. Not only for their sake, but for our own.

It sounds so final, but it really isn’t. It’s all in how we look at it.

If you are the parent of a teen, you are in some of the most precious and rewarding days of your child’s life so far. Just think of all you and your teen have been through and accomplished during those years. You are now an experienced parent, able to give advice to new parents who are struggling as you did with the infant, toddler, and young child issues. You are the parent of a teenager! That deserves a “Wow!”

Admittedly, it takes a lot of work and soul-searching to begin the process of letting go. But we as adults should be equipped to do just that. We have already been through this before, on the opposite end of the spectrum, when we were teens ourselves.

We know all too well the need to get out and be on our own, the need to spread our wings, the need to feel like we can fly off on our own and make great things happen!

So I will continue to love them, continue to teach them, and continue to say goodbye to them because I know it is the best thing for them. Your teens will love you for letting them go peacefully, and it paves the way for sweet relationships with them when they become adults.

How have you done it? How have you said goodbye to your kids when they ship off to college, or just – life? Please leave a comment below with your thoughts and experiences.

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One thought on “Saying Goodbye to Your College Kid Without Turning Into a Blubbering Idiot, Again

  1. Again, you have written a masterful piece of advice for parents. Your skill writing becomes more evident with every article. And here is a thought I had while reading this article. You and Don are now witnessing what has occurred after graduation with Jacquelyn. She successfully started a job in her engineering field, she got married, established her home, and is now a shining example of how a young person who has met each challenge young people see fares in her adult life.