By Cherie Faus-Smith
Saying goodbye to my son as he headed away to college was heartbreaking. I was losing my mini-me and I enjoyed spending time with him each and every day. We’re so much alike and it was tough for me knowing that I wouldn’t see him walk down the stairs in the morning, say goodbye to him as he left for school, or hear about his stories at dinner.
My first few weeks with an empty nest were uneasy and lonely. Preparing mentally for your child to leave the nest and start their journey at college can be filled with a lot of anxiety. They are venturing out on their own and, if you’re like me, this mama bear worried about his safety. The experience was heightened because he is our only child, which left my husband and I to find our new normal.
We’ve all heard the stories of couples ending their marriages because they couldn’t find common interests after their children flew the coop. Would we become a statistic? No! I was determined to pull myself (and us!) together. Instead, we worked on reconnecting with one another after he left for school.
As we spent more time together, we developed sort-of informal couple goals. My husband and I changed our diet and I began cooking healthier foods. We also began working out together and it felt good to be on the same page. Being able to go to bed when we wanted to without feeling guilty and watching our own TV shows without him complaining was amazing.
When I was finally comfortable with the fact that my son was gone, winter break began, and he was on his way home.My husband and I were excited to have him home for six weeks even though we knew our relationship would resume its spot in the backseat. We didn’t prepare ourselves, though, for our son’s own sense of newfound independence.
In the beginning, spending time with him was amazing but then we began butting heads. As a business owner who works from home and has daily deadlines, I found myself balancing client time and giving him attention as well. He loved coming into my office and chatting for HOURS. Even though I knew work needed to get done, I didn’t want to hurt his feelings by telling him he had to leave. After a week or so, my patience grew thin and I began lashing out at him.
Our uneven keel wasn’t only my son’s fault - we had both become accustomed to doing things our own way.After a few weeks of me raising my voice and him feeling left out, we had a heart-to-heart. I hadn’t taken into account how he was feeling about the changes. Once I began to see things from his point of view, and he from mine, we were able to get back on track.
My 5 tips on surviving those college years:
Our son has graduated from college with his Bachelor of Science Degree and has moved home to pursue his master’s degree. It’s been an adjustment all over again, but we have set boundaries and expectations on both sides of the playing field and we are enjoying our time together.
Because I have a passion for supporting women, I created a Facebook Group called Sisterhood of Fabulous and Fearless Women. Would love for you to join.
I would love to hear your tips on surviving those college years or even if your adult children have moved back home.
Cherie Faus-Smith is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, & transformational coach focusing on women over 50. Her goal is to inspire women (like you!) to live life on their own terms. Cherie’s been a guest on Good Day PA and, most recently, was the keynote speaker at the YWCA's fashion show event to raise money for their Domestic Violence program.
She shares her experiences with surviving domestic abuse and being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder to inspire women to live life to the fullest, push their comfort zones, and thrive.
Find out more about Cherie on her website. Also, you can follow her on Instagram and Facebook.
The Greatest of These is Love
By Holly Miller
Mrs. Miller, will you be here after school for a while?” In my third year of teaching, one of my tougher students poked her head into my classroom at dismissal. “Yes Maria, what can I do for you?” I said smiling, hiding my own hesitation. Maria and I had a rocky start to the school year. She was defiant, cut class, and often didn’t have her work done. But I tried my best to give her a clean slate every day and be as patient as possible. She asked if she could get some help on the assignment we were working on in class earlier that day and I was pleased to see her actually putting in some effort so I happily obliged. She actually didn’t need a whole lot of help and it seemed like she just needed a place to work and have someone hold her accountable. Maria started coming by after school once a week for extra math help. After a while, she asked if she could come work on any work in my classroom, even if it wasn’t for my class. I had plenty of grading and lesson planning to do, so she came by a few times every week after school and we often chatted and worked, each accomplishing what we needed to do.
After these impromptu work sessions became the norm for us, Maria started to try in class, had her work done, dropped her ‘tough girl’ exterior with me, and stopping missing class. One afternoon, she shared with me that she couldn’t get work done at home. Her mom worked late hours and she was responsible for picking up her younger siblings, making dinner, and ensuring they did their homework. She couldn’t complete homework unless she found a quiet place to work directly after school for the one hour she had to wait for the elementary school to dismiss. After she completed her work in my room, she would walk to the elementary school and basically start a ‘second shift’ taking care of her siblings. Maria shared with me that she felt like no one really cared about her success and well-being and she was too busy helping with her family to worry about herself. But coming to my class after school focused her one hour into time to complete school work and decompress from her day. I saw Maria go from almost failing to an exemplary student. She went from being angry, combative, and evasive to focused, goal-oriented, and even polite. While I heard the old adage “students don't care how much you know until they know how much you care”, Maria was my first encounter with how much truth there is in that saying. I tried my best to give her a place where she felt safe, supported, and loved.
I am a firm believer in the words of Rita Pierson, “Every child needs a champion.” If you have never heard her TED Talk, do yourself a favor and watch it here: https://www.ted.com/talks/rita_pierson_every_kid_needs_a_champion?language=en
While I haven’t put in the 40 years into education that Rita has, I can affirm that in my 12 years in education and 4 years previous to that in early childhood education, this is true. I have seen first-hand students who are loved, supported, and have safe environments succeed while others who don’t have consistent support, have hard home lives, or simply feel like no one is looking out for them fail. The number one reason students succeed is love. Behind every successful student is at least one person who told them they could do it; one person who consistently was there for them. I have had the pleasure of being one of those people to many students, but I have also lost sleep and cried over students who I couldn’t reach. While I can’t be a champion for every child, I wake up every day trying to do so for as many as possible.
We all have young people in our lives. Our own children, nieces, nephews, friends’ children, or little ones at church or in our community. It is imperative that children know they are seen, that they are important to someone, that they are loved. You can be a champion for any child. There are studies done on non-parent mentors and the positive effects on children. (There is an excellent article about it in Psychology Today, found here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-moment-youth/201301/mentoring-youth-matters). As adults, whether you are formally responsible for children or not, we need to be there for the children in our lives and cheer them on. Have conversations. Check in with them. Get to know them. Ask what made them smile today. Ask what their favorite class is this school year. Ask who they sit with at lunch. Find out what makes them laugh. Do anything you can to show that you care. So many students slip through the cracks. I have mourned the suicides of too many of my students. I have felt the blow of students dropping out of school or being arrested and sent to alternative education. Raising successful young people is not a one-person job. All adults need to step up and champion children in their lives. Eventually, if there are enough people who do not give up on them, students will realize someone believes in them. There will be at least one person they can connect with and be inspired by. While many things go into student success, the greatest of these is love.
While Holly Miller has eclectic passions, interests, and hobbies, she is easily summed up as a high school mathematics teacher who found a way to thrive despite her anxiety and depression. Her goal is to spread awareness about mental health, inspire those who struggle to see that they are not alone and show them that they can find light in even the darkest of places. She enjoys spending time with her husband Luke, their two dogs, two cats, and Russian tortoise. While she may not have many impressive credentials, Holly believes there is magic in the ordinary every day and that a simple life is a good life.
Holly can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org