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Brother Leaving for College

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: How do I help my four younger children deal with the oldest brother going off to college? He's going from Louisiana to Ohio, so visits will be few and far between.

A: I would try to spend time alone with each of your four younger ones, letting them express their hopes, fears and worries about big brother going away to college. Don’t do this as if it were the "big birds and bees talk"; have several talks with each of them throughout the summer months, as their feelings will probably intensify as departure day approaches.

Their biggest concerns may surround how family life will change without him there. You can offer them at least a practical outline of what will change and what will not. I think most of the comfort and consolation that can be provided will come from big brother himself. If he has had good relationships with his siblings, he can spend time with them in various groupings and in one-on-one special times. During these times he can reassure them all of his love for them. I know this may be a formidable task for him to pull off but it’s the best way to preserve these bonds.

Talk a lot throughout the summer of how you will all stay in touch. He should be made to feel that he is going off on a grand adventure, not that he’s leaving mournful family members behind. There will be all the normal attendant anxieties of a first born leaving the nest. Use the summer months to celebrate yourselves as a family that cares about each other, that can laugh together, and that can weather any separation.

Congratulations on your first college child. Take it from one who’s been there with my two kids, the time will fly by. My kids both loved getting letters (and now e-mails too) in addition to the occasional phone call.

For more on how to say good-bye to your college-bound kids read Carleton Kendrick's Parents Say Goodbye: The Last Summer Before College

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Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

Please note: This "Expert Advice" area of FamilyEducation.com should be used for general information purposes only. Advice given here is not intended to provide a basis for action in particular circumstances without consideration by a competent professional. Before using this Expert Advice area, please review our General and Medical Disclaimers.


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