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Right before high school graduates leave for college, emotions tend to run high at home for both freshmen and their parents. Well, mostly their parents.  The new chapter is super exciting, but it’s still sad to accept the fact that your baby is growing up.

As your kids cherish their last few weeks with their childhood friends, they’ll reminisce about all high school memories (good and bad). It gets really teary once their friends start leaving one by one. Slowly but surely, your house will (finally!) no longer be full of rowdy teens and their friends.

Throughout the whole summer leading up to college, I was blind to the fact that things were changing forever. At the time, I didn’t realize my core friend group would never be as close as it once was. Your kids might want to believe that when they come home from school, it’ll be exactly how they left it. However, it’s easy to forget that time goes on while they’re away. This is a reality that all college freshman eventually face. Amongst all the grad parties and college preparations, it’s easy to forget what a big change you and your children are about to go through.

Like I said, children fail to understand that “home” does not stand still waiting for them to come back from school. A lot of my friends experienced drastic changes at home, whether it be their parents selling the house they grew up in or getting a divorce. Since your children may be going through these changes while away at school, the reality will hit them when they arrive home for summer, which can create an unsettling homecoming. When hard news can only be delivered through a phone call or text, sad feelings can build up and eventually explode when your children come face to face with a change they’d only imagined until then.

Throughout finals, all I could think about was what an amazing summer my old friends and I anticipated to have, but I didn’t consider how all my friends would’ve changed after a year away. In some cases, I saw my friends succeed and become better versions of themselves. However, I also saw some other friends move backward as I outgrew them. Although my first summer home from college wasn’t as magical as I dreamed it would be, I’ve strengthened my relationships with friends that I learned were evolving with me. I no longer feel forced to see people that I don’t want to spend time with anymore. I learned the value of my time and that I can choose how I spend it.

In senior year of high school, your children are so comfortable with their friend groups, especially if they’ve had the same best friends since elementary school like I did. However, every college freshman has to make new friends when they hit campus. This allows for a fresh start, and gives them a chance to re-evaluate the qualities they admire and value in potential new friends. Since your teen’s perspective on friendship may change while they’re away, don’t be surprised if they show no interest in hanging out with old friends over the summer. They’re simply growing up and realizing what they need out of relationships. Rather than being confused, be proud of the strides your children have made.

Best of all, expect your relationship to strengthen with your college freshman. Throughout high school, some teens are  notorious for being sneaky and wanting space from their parents. However, once they get a taste of freedom in college and you loosen the reins accordingly, your relationship can become more mature. Consequently, your kids will miss you a lot while they’re at school.

As time continues, it’s only natural for kids to grow and change. You’ll experience lots of changes when your children flee the nest, but be sensitive to the emotional changes your college freshman is going through, too. The first year marks a big transition from childhood to adulthood. It’s your teen’s first change to be independent and make their own choices. Guide them but allow them to learn through their mistakes. They’ll never be able to fully flourish without letting go of your hand.

—Lexi Caruso is a soon-to-be college sophomore who’s just wrapping up her first summer back home. She attends San Diego State University.

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