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12 Signs Your Kid is Leaving For College and You’re Totally Losing It

Judging by the store displays spilling into the aisles, back to school season is upon us. And if you're a parent with a soon-to-be college freshman, this back to school season may just be your most intense one yet.

For example, the school supply list just became the dorm supply list. The other kids in their class just became the roommates who will live with your kid every single night and day.

And don't even get me started on the bills.

Perhaps most challenging of it all, these are the last weeks before your baby flies the nest, and it's quite possible you're experiencing a season of emotional meltdown that rivals postpartum depression.

Here's a checklist of symptoms in case you're wondering. The good news? You're not crazy...and you're not alone!

12 Signs Your Kid is Leaving For College and You’re Totally Losing It

1. You're tormented by the mental countdown of the weeks and days until they leave. (Which turns into a full-blown anxiety attack when it becomes counting the hours before they leave.)

2. Random things make you burst into tears: their childhood photos, a stack of empty boxes and packing tape outside their room, their dirty cereal bowl left on the counter...the first glance at their tuition bill.

3. You get super clingy and follow your kid around the house asking to hang out with them every waking moment of the day.

4. You find yourself lurking in a dark corner of their bedroom watching them sleep.

5. You stalk your kid's college roommate on social media trying to determine if there’s any possibility this space-sharing stranger could be a sex-crazed, nocturnal, meth-cooking, kleptomaniac psychopath with poor hygiene or bad study habits.

6. You become over-zealous about inserting safety reminders into daily conversations: "I see you left a can of half-finished Diet Coke on the counter...remember you can't do that in college or someone could "slip you a mickey!"

7. Your nesting instinct goes into overdrive and you realize you’ve spent more on outfitting their dorm room than on an entire semester of college room & board.

8. You appear somewhat unstable while emphatically trying to convince your eye-rolling college student that they WILL CERTAINLY NEED such dorm essentials as a day planner, umbrella & rainboots, sewing kit, and that arm-chair-backrest pillow thing that's existed for three decades.

9. You offer heartfelt hugs in solidarity with random strangers in the check-out aisle at Target upon noticing that they, too, are a weepy-eyed mothers toting carts full of color-coordinated hangers, Twin XL bedding and storage crates.

10. You reserve a U-haul truck for college drop-off because the loot from that 4th trip to Bed, Bath & Beyond barely fit in the car.

11. You ambitiously start planning college care packages before they've even left, hoping to relieve your guilt of all the times you forgot to be the tooth fairy.

12. You go through an entire box of tissues while looking through decades of old photos—including ones from your own college days—and wonder how all of these glorious years went by so fast and you could possibly be this old.

And then you realize the age you somehow thought you still were is the age your kid has now become.

And you begin to embrace the process of truly letting them go.

After all--this season is not about your time that's ending; it's about their time that's just beginning.

So, dear parent--though it may feel like sending them off to college is the final curtain call of parenthood, I promise you that it's not.

In truth, your influence is perhaps going to become even more important during these upcoming years.

Your son or daughter is entering into one of the most spiritually and personally formative times in their life, and they're going to need your wisdom, support and love more than ever.

And once they walk out that door for the real world, they'll actually seek your advice instead of snarling at it.

So grab the Kleenex, pack the boxes, pay the bills, and start planning for all of the new ways to stay connected while your kid ventures into this exciting time.


FullSizeRender (54)Written by Kami Gilmour, mom of 5 teen and young adult kids. She's the author of a best-selling devotional book for parents of college students that offers helpful encouragement and faith-filled perspectives for surviving and thriving in this season:  Release My Grip: Hope for a Parent's Heart as Kids Leave the Nest and Learn to Fly.


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Showing 18 comments
  • Toninarie

    Tears already and I have another year!

    • Tonja

      YOU TOO? I’m reading all of this, through tears! Lawd GAWD!!!! I’m not ready!!!!

  • Monica Jackson

    Thank you so much. I really needed this

  • Beverly Dykema

    Whew my emotions have been so high and yes I am scared for my baby girl to go away. This is one big scary world.

  • Laurie wright

    this is so funny!!!

  • Carolynn Bates

    So true, mainly the best is yet to come and they go out there with what YOU gave them. They make it and surprisingly so does MOM.

  • Janet

    What about the ones leaving for good.. Not college, first job etc, now that’s empty heart, nest.. Whatever..,no term can adequately express that threshold..

    This is harder than empty nest to college..,

  • Joyce

    Stop crying and think of the positives… No more lunches to make, less laundry to do, house stays clean, no shoes to move or clothes to pick up. No more arguin, or cooking different meals. More free time to spend on yourself or go out with your friends and your husband! No more running them all over creation. Your weekends are yours again!!! When they finish school in 4 years they come home more loving, and respectful like when they were little ,before those teenage years! It’s all good…. No more tears… Just enjoy it!!!

    • jane

      I couldn’t agree more!

  • LisaT

    So, so funny. I read it allowed to my soon to be college sophomore until I wanted to cry from laughing at the plain truth of it all. I’m guilty…I am it it. What a great moment we shared reading this article. 🙂

  • Grampy and Grammy

    Sounds very familiar.

  • sunanda

    Every one of it true! This is made me cry harder 🙁

    • Kami Gilmour

      Hang in there, Sunanda! The tears will subside in the next few weeks as you adjust to a new normal. It helps when you get a call in a few weeks and hear their excitement about their new life.

  • Melody

    This is so ME!! 😢 Thanks I really needed to hear this

    • Kami Gilmour

      its always nice to know we’re not alone…and not crazy! hang in there!

  • Natalie

    Only less than a month away from sending my firstborn daughter off to our Alma mater. Might need to bulk buy kleenex😂

  • Mindy

    She leaves in a month out of state college! She is my only child too.

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