Don’t fret. Your college girls will search once more for connectedness
and roots. They just need a little time to spread their wings.

Even if you daughter never actually said, “I can’t wait to get out of this
house!” she probably thought it once or twice during the high school
years.  And unless she’s either not attending college or attending a
community college, she has probably moved out of your house for at
least one year.  (Most universities require the first year is spent either
at home with parents or at the university dorms.)

The departure for college, whether it’s down the street or across the
country, is a milestone for girls and their families.
  It’s an event
charged with emotions ranging from extreme excitement to fear to
hesitancy (student) and from relief to fear to sadness (parents). 

If you are a parent experiencing sadness and struggle because your
baby is far away, you’re certainly not alone. It’s very easy to think that
the current state of affairs is forever – that your daughter will never
come back home.  I definitely felt this way when we moved our oldest,
the first of our college students, into the university dorms. Little did I
know that she would live with us again not only that summer but the
second quarter of her sophomore year.

I hope you’ll feel encouraged by a smattering of facts and experiences
I’ve collected either from Internet resources, my own experience, or
the experiences of other families whose kids have gone through
college.  The bottom line message?  Being away from home transforms
your college-aged daughter but she still needs you and wants to be a
part of home as well.

At one highly-ranked state school, the freshman retention rate is about
77% for non-residents and 83% for residents
.  That means that about
25% of non-residents are finding other options for their second year –
either not continuing college, or transferring to a different school.  The
first year of college is a wait-and-see process:  Does my daughter click
with this system?

After a young woman has had a little taste of independence, she starts
missing the comforts of home.  More privacy, home-cooked meals, or
nights out with trusted friends could all be on her list if desirable “at-
home” pleasures.

Similarly, if given a little time to feel her oats, many daughters
suddenly start worrying more about their parents.  Watch the tables
as your daughter calls you more than she used to, or drives home
for the weekend more often.

Knowing what to expect always helps.  The emotional cycle most first-
year-away students experience goes something like this:
First quarter: The honeymoon. Sheer excitement often overrides
nervousness.  Students tend to move in packs.  Dorm mentors offer a
good support network to prevent students from feeling isolated.

Second quarter: Reality sets in.  Students isolate and differentiate a
little bit more.  Exams loom large in the picture.  Some students who
will eventually switch universities or colleges start to show the first
signs of discontent this early.

Holiday break: Most university dorms close and students will return
home for up to six weeks. Students re-connect with the group of
friends they were close with during the summer.  This holiday break
can be a turning point in the first year.  Students may become more
homesick after having been home. (But just as many can’t wait to get
back out on their own!)

Third quarter:  This is often the “darkest” quarter of the school year. 
Students have a hard time getting charged up about schoolwork.  In
many places the weather prohibits spending much time outdoors,
which leads to some cabin fever symptoms.  Care packages from
home can really help this quarter.

Fourth quarter:  Year-end madness.  Hearts are lighter.  While early
Spring Break (March) may have already occurred, the later Spring
Break (April) beckons on the horizon. Your student rides a big wave
that moves fast and carries them to the end of the year.  Many
students return home for the summer.

*  *  *

Don’t fret. Your college girls will search once more for connectedness
and roots. They just need a little time to spread their wings. I’m a
strong proponent of allowing kids (and even pushing them) to step
outside the safety net in order to grow. Be assured that they tend to
grow organically, and will still seek your light as a necessary element
in their lives.

Mama J (Diane Fromme) is a writer, parent, and stepparent located in
Northern Colorado.  For more information on her stepparenting book,
go to

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