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College Bound: Leaving Younger Siblings Behind

By Dolores Hoffman

Going to college is a rite of passage.  Moving out is a time filled with big change.  When it’s time for your teen to head to college, remember it affects everyone in the home.  Staying connected and helping the younger siblings adjust takes planning to make the transition go well.  Here are a few suggestions to help make it go as smooth as possible.

Keep the communication flowing: – Establish a time for calls between siblings to connect on a daily basis. Connecting through Facetime, Skype and texting are all methods that help in keeping the communication open and will keep the sadness away. Be careful not to pressure your college freshman to call too often, they have a lot of adjusting to go through at college.

Share in the excitement: Get everyone involved in the preparations. This not only will distract everyone from feeling stressed and worried but you benefit by being able to spend the extra time together before moving day.

Create Memories: Pictures or frames make great gifts to take to college. Give younger siblings a college t-shirt or other school mementos from the campus to ease the feeling of emptiness. Matching items like a special pillow or stuffed animal make for a cute gift for those much younger siblings. The gift doesn’t have to cost a lot to be effective in helping with the adjustment.

Don’t Minimize Feelings: Don’t be afraid to show emotion and let others do the same. Losing the daily presence of a sibling is especially hard so acknowledge that it’s normal to miss someone you care about when he or she is away and be sure to look for signs of loneliness, because they are not only losing a friend but also their comfort person.

Make “Move-in” Day Fun: When your college student leaves, it’s helpful for the entire family to “drop him/her off.” Once there, you might want to give the younger ones a task so they feel included in the process.  Touring the campus is a great way to make them feel more

Celebrate Change: Siblings may feel excited about the change yet at the same time they may feel a sense of loss.  Go ahead and focus on the positive changes that will occur once the older one is away. That might include things such as no more fighting over the remote, choosing the next movie to watch or picking a restaurant for dinner.  Another great idea is decorating their bedroom.  Whether it’s a new room or the same one, it symbolizes a new chapter for the whole family.

The most important part of helping children manage this big change is to let them express their feelings to make the adjustment less traumatic. This may take time and patience, but it’s well worth it for the kids at home and it will set a blueprint for them when it’s finally their time to leave the nest and spread their wings


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