It's nearly here - the moment you've been dreading. Soon you'll have to do one of the hardest things any parent has to do: say goodbye to the child you've nurtured and protected since they were born.
I've always hated saying goodbye. And with my kids I've never got it quite right - even with years of practice. But I have picked up some helpful tips from other empty nest parents which should make things easier for you - and your child.
HIDE A SECRET NOTE
Before he/she leaves, write a note or a card which says the things you'll probably be too choked up to say when the dread moment arrives. Slip it into their bag to find when they're unpacking.
Play it by ear: It's hard to predict whether your student will want you to leave immediately or hang around. And even when you've got there it's often hard to tell from their body language what they want you to do. I always felt I got it wrong: I should have stayed longer/I should have left earlier…..but the truth is, it's pretty impossible to get this right!
BOOK A LOVELY HOTEL OR B & B
...for a night nearby. That way you'll be around if they want to go out to dinner. But make your own contingency plans for your evening too - check out movies and concerts beforehand - because with any luck you'll be spending the evening alone while they go out with new friends.
And the last thing you need is to be drowning your sorrows with only the mini bar for company.
LET YOUR STUDENT GET ON WITH IT
This is their chance to make new friends. So leave them to it. Slip away to the shops/cinema/caff and text later to see how they're getting on.
WHEN IT'S FINALLY TIME TO LEAVE
Make an excuse to talk to your child alone. Saying goodbye in front of a group of students makes everyone even more tense. And if you start sobbing, it could be embarrassing.
SAYING GOODBYE AT THE AIRPORT
Airport goodbyes have got to be the hardest, because they're super-charged with emotion. Suddenly your child is off through the security gates and you're not going to see them for a year. Don't prolong the agony (as I always did - big mistake) by lingering around for the final glimpse of that precious back. And if you need to have a quick sob in the loo before you embark on the journey home.
PUT YOURSELF IN HIS/HER SHOES
Remember it's hard for your child too, even if she/he doesn't let on how nervous he is. They're the ones making the big leap into the unknown (well to be fair, you are too…..)
WHAT IF I CRY?
DON'T get too hung up about NOT crying in front of your child. On balance, it's probably best to fight back the tears and it's definitely a bad idea to have a total meltdown in front of them - save that for the journey home. But experts like the wise psychotherapist Phillip Hodson says a few tears are fine; kids like to know they'll be missed.