Family Transition Tips
- Once a sibling leaves for college, give siblings still at home a journal where they can write feelings, fears, and questions about missing their sibling. Use the journal as an opportunity to discuss this family transition with the sibling left behind.
- Spend family time talking about living space and how space might be reallocated BEFORE your student leaves, so he is not surprised when he arrives home and finds his bedroom is now occupied by a sibling or has been made into a den.
And Then There Were Three:
Siblings through the College Transition
You never thought the day would come
that your children who argued over
clothes, divided their shared room
down the middle with masking tape,
and avoided each other at school would
actually be sad to say good-bye. As
your child prepares to leave for college,
saying good-bye is equally difficult for
those leaving and those being left
behind, even siblings. Sibling relationships can be
enduring, and a sense of loss can be felt when an older
sibling heads off to college.
Whether a sibling is feeling lonely or confused
about their new perceived role in the family, there are a
variety of ways that parents can help those children at
home stay connected with an older sibling at college.
- Plan family gatherings
Plan a dinner out for just family when the college
student comes home to visit.
Explore a new city by meeting halfway between
home and college for a day.
Have the younger sibling(s) and college sibling(s)
collaboratively plan a family weekend getaway.
- Virtual connection
Plan weekly phone calls for younger siblings to talk
with their older sibling.
Provide access to email for siblings back home.
Help a sibling prepare a college care package.
Snail mail is always fun to get, so encourage siblings
to write each other regularly.
- Plan a campus visit: Family Weekend, Sibling Weekend,
Homecoming, Athletic Events
Opportunities to Reconnect with
Siblings Still at Home
Multiple changes are happening for the college sibling,
and similarly the siblings left behind are experiencing
change in a newly constructed family unit.
Consider how you can:
- Anticipate the new “family order”
The middle child or younger child will now take on
the role of the oldest in the family.
Resources such as transportation, bedroom space,
computer, etc. may need to be reallocated appropriately
This is the
time to give
to the siblings still at home.
Be careful not to send a “guilt trip”
It is easy to try to “make” an older sibling spend
time with a younger sibling, but allowing the
reconnection to happen naturally will lead to a
long-term renewed relationship.
Be careful not to make a returning student feel
guilty for wanting to spend time with friends,
bringing new college friends home, or needing
alone time, rather than spending time with family.
Family Reconfiguration When
College Student Arrives Home
A homecoming will require adjustments.
- Younger siblings experience mixed emotions and
may need support from parents if they feel that a
returning college student is monopolizing family
time and resources.
- Younger siblings may be confused by perceived
and real changes in their college sibling. Once able
to talk about everything and anything, siblings
have led different lives over the past few months
and may need to become re-acquainted.
- The middle or youngest sibling has become comfortable
with his role as the “oldest” the past few
months, and will need to adjust to the adapted
family hierarchy once again.