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Sending kids off to college? Here's what to do for them – and yourself

For those sending a child off to college, it’s an exciting but emotional time. See the best advice from the Know Your Value parents who have been there.
by Julianne Pepitone /
Image: Female college graduate
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The summer days are growing shorter, which means back-to-school season is nearly here. For those sending a child off to college – especially if it’s their first year – it’s an exciting but emotional time.

Many of the Know Your Value team members and their friends have been there. Below, they share their "in the trenches" insights, hard-won lessons and best advice for handling the transition.

The best thing I told my child – or did for them

“As both of my daughters went off to college I indulged them a bit, not in a materialistic way, but rather letting them react, feel, and emote without my judging or commenting on it."

- Know Your Value’s Duby McDowell

I taught my daughter some coping skills, because sometimes the weight and stress of everything would cause her to have a total meltdown. I showed her that in those times she needed to get active (exercise, clean, etc.) and get out of her own head – and instead of worrying about passing all her classes for the semester – focus on that next test and take one day at a time.”

- Know Your Value’s Maureen Clancy

“I told my child I was interested in hearing about every part of his day: his first meal in the cafeteria, freshman orientation, buying his books. Those first weeks can be tough away from friends and family, but I think knowing he could call me anytime and I’d be excited to hear all about it helped ease the transition.”

- Know Your Value friend, Debbie Saunders

"Our daughter was always a highly disciplined, straight-A student, so she got into an amazing university. But she was putting a lot of pressure on herself for college performance. We finally sat her down and explained she had already won the top prize by getting into the college she wanted; now she was competing only against herself. She didn’t need to worry anymore about how anyone else was doing."

- Know Your Value friend, Diane Johns

"She is famous for making to-do lists, so to remind her of our conversation, I wrote three things on a Post-It note and put it in her dorm room. It said, ‘1. Be safe. 2. Work hard. 3. Have fun.’ She gradually lightened up and had an incredible four years at school. What struck me most, though, was when she moved back home after graduation last year. One of the first things I noticed in her room at home was the Post-It I had given her, now stuck to her bedroom mirror."

- Know Your Value friend, Diane Johns

The best thing I told myself – or did for myself

"In the days leading up to her departure, I tried to remind myself that this wasn’t about me. I tried to make myself focus only on her experience (Did we get the correct-sized sheets? Is she feeling good about her roommate?) because when I started thinking about myself too much I got distracted from helping her. I decided that after drop-off I could revel in my emotions."

- Know Your Value’s Duby McDowell

I joined my child’s school’s Facebook group for parents, and every question I had was already answered in this helpful community forum.”

- Know Your Value’s Jane Kaupp

“My daughter knew what a sacrifice it was for me to send [her] to a school that cost $52,000 a year. So she did not take it for granted, and she was very transparent: I got access to her grades and her Alabama email. My kids knew that if they did not have the grades, they were coming home to [attend] college [closer to home]. End of discussion."

- Know Your Value’s Vicki Neidigh

“As we left after dropping my daughter off, I told myself, ‘She will be OK. We raised a strong, independent woman and she will be successful no matter where her life might lead.’ We knew she had a very strong support system at home and we could get her through the tough times. I knew in my heart that things would work out for her, one way or another.”

- Know Your Value friend Linda Mowinski

My best advice for fellow parents

Don’t underestimate the power of an old-fashioned card or care package in the mail. In these days of texting and social media, kids still feel special when they get a surprise card or goodie-filled box from home. It’s a tangible sign of their parents’ love.”

- Know Your Value’s Maureen Clancy

“Try to keep it together emotionally in front of your child. You don’t want to give the impression you’re not affected at all, but if you have a complete breakdown you are shifting a lot of burden onto your child. You need to try as best you can to be ‘the rock.’"

- Know Your Value’s Duby McDowell

"Also, don’t let others’ experiences shape yours. You will hear about parents who cried during the entire drive home from drop-off, and about those who were relieved to get Zack or Zoe out the door. Every parent, child and parent-child relationship is unique and your reaction to the experience will be your own."

- Know Your Value’s Duby McDowell

“Don’t expect your child to call you every day – or every other day. Accept that he/she is learning to live on his/her own. That being said, it’s absolutely reasonable to set up a cadence for checking in and to hold them to it. Definitely use FaceTime – seeing your child’s face is so much more gratifying and calming than just hearing their voice!”

- Know Your Value friend, Diane Johns

Remember to celebrate yourself as a parent for raising these incredible kids. Your children still need you, but your job was to teach them to fly.”

- Know Your Value friend, Patty Barrella

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