Dropping a Child at College Michelle’s boys: first day of school for 9 + 5 year old on top; first day of school for 16 + 12 year old on bottom. “Oh my heart,” she says.

One of the rules I—Dimity—made for my kids was this: No growing up. They broke it daily, although their disregard for my authority felt most blatant at the beginning of a school year. As I snapped pics of fresh haircuts and excited smiles, I, like most parents, thought, “How can you already be in 2nd, 6th, 10th grade?”

While speeding through school felt harsh at times, separation after high school can be particularly painful. Kerry, a member of Many Happy Miles, recently shared her not-running-related thoughts about dropping a child at college on the MHM Facebook page, and the comments she received were so helpful, we wanted to share them with all of you.

Just in case, you know, your kids are growing up on you too.

Kerry writes: For those of you who have sent kids off to college far from home, how do you fill that void? How do you work through that sadness of them not being physically in your house any more while at the same time being excited and proud of them for moving on?

I have always encouraged my kids to spread their wings and follow their dreams like I did, but I never thought it would actually be so hard when she followed my advice!

Tips from the Many Happy Miles crowd:
Allow yourself some downtime, then gradually get into the things you dreamed you’d do with all your newfound spare time. These feelings are HUGE and deserve space and time to fully feel them. It’s always tough to combine the pride in our children’s independence with the longing for them to be back at home.

I have to say it was harder than I thought it would be. But I found myself with more time and am trying to fill it with those things I always said I’d get to eventually, like more books, more nights out with friends. It doesn’t happen overnight and is a process for sure, but it does slowly happen. And when you see your daughter thriving you will know it is all okay. –Susi

Let the tears flow. They may come at unexpected times—hello, produce aisle months after dropoff!—but remember that you can hold both feelings: sadness for the empty space you feel, excitement for their next adventure. It’s the true definition of bittersweet. —Dimity

I don’t have the answer and I’m a year behind you but I can’t help to think this is why we have to prioritize ourselves all the time. So we can weather these moments. —Hollie

Advice given to me years ago: when you move your youngest [ed note: or any child] to college don’t go straight home. Get away for 1-2 days. We just did that. It was great advice. —Heidi

Plan a trip to visit! This has helped me with my older daughter leaving. Also I got a puppy. —Christine

Try to set small steps and goals to keep your mind and heart healthy and moving. Watching and celebrating my two young adult kids succeed and flourish has been such a rewarding part of being their mom. It takes some time…many minutes! —Mary Ellen

My oldest is a junior in high school and I already am feeling all the feels with them growing up and moving out. My first reaction is… more dogs! But I already have two and know that’s not the answer. It’ll be an adjustment that will take time. —Cecilie

I just sent my daughter far away to her last year of college and it’s even worse than her first year because this time I don’t know if she’ll ever live with me again. I pretty much count the days until the next school break. —Lyssa

I send a text daily. Usually in the morning before he is even awake. Some days I get a one word reply, some days we text back and forth all day. When we talk, I tell him I love him and some times, he says it back. I just find joy in knowing he is doing really well and loves it. —Jodi

Find a way to communicate with her that suits her and adapt to that method, whatever it is. Does she text? Great. Text back. Does she send you silly TikToks? Great — get on that app and send some back! I just joined another app this week (BeReal) because my daughter sent me a not-so-subtle TikTok about a girl who misses her mom and uses this new app to see what her mom’s up to. So of course I have that app now. These tiny connections on her terms are doing absolute wonders for my broken heart. —Melissa, part I

Eventually, gently, set a weekly day to talk or FaceTime. I cherish the anticipation of a Wednesday call from one (age 20) and a Sunday call from the other (age 24). The youngest, who just went to college, will get a date set up with me soon — after she has some rhythm to her weeks and can pick a time she’d like to connect with mom. —Melissa, part II

Identify your hardest moments when you (or your youngest) miss her most and make plans to do something fun during that time. So far, I haven’t spent one weekend “doing nothing at home” since we dropped the youngest off! These plans, both big and small, are giving me things to focus on that are distracting and fun! —Melissa, part III
Also, who thought it was a good idea for us to be sending our babies off into the world AND be dealing with perimenopause at the same time!? Can we catch a break in the emotional wreck department, please?!  —Jana

What did we miss? What tips do you have for surviving dropping a child at college?