This is the time of year when people are saying goodbye to their children and sending them off to school, the armed services, or away for work.
It is easier to do for some of us than for others (that applies to both parents and children). As one mother said to me, “I didn’t think it would be this hard for me to send him to college because this isn’t my first rodeo.”
We often underestimate the emotional effects of an event, particularly one that is a “life passage.” We think because we have done it before it won’t affect us. But in fact it does. Because we sent one child to college doesn’t mean the next time we do it will be easy. We have different relationships with each of our children and our family dynamic changes when someone leaves. Each person and situation is unique. There are a lot of variables to consider.
When our first child went away we may have had a different relationship with our spouse than we do now. We may have had a job we liked. Maybe everyone was healthy then and now our parent is ill. Perhaps we lived in another city where we had friends and now we are in a new place without meaningful connections. Or maybe, as this next child goes to college we feel our purpose needs to be redefined. Maybe this is the child with whom we have a special type of communication or who always brightened up the room when he came home.
We can be kind to ourselves by allowing ourselves to process the internal response we have when our child leave the “nest” for school or the armed services or moving away for a job.