Siblings and Separation

Diane

The time has come to get this blog moving again. It has been since May that I have written anything. A busy summer and fall lead me off my creative path, but I am back. In the middle of an Eagles win, I was inspired by a conversation with a friend and neighbor to write again.  However, before I get started, let me just take a moment to say, “What a game!!” I’m not even the truest of football fans, but if ever I wanted a team to win it was those birds.  Congratulations, Eagles.

As I mentioned, while sharing some Super Bowl snacks my neighbor and I got to talking about her eldest son. He is the oldest of four and soon to embark on his college career this August.  I have been watching from the sidelines as M, and his parents have gone on a whirlwind tour of colleges, excitedly posting his acceptances to just about each school he has applied.  He is still waiting on two, but it is without a doubt that this college thing is going to happen.  Even as I type, M and his mom are re-visiting St. Joseph’s University to help with the decision making process.  Of course, his parents are thinking about the bottom line and post-college debt. M is looking more at college life and what feels “right” for him.  It’s an exciting and sometimes even anxiety-ridden time for both student and parents.  Colleges and universities recognize it can be overwhelming and do a lot to help with transitioning students to college and have also done much to help parents with this transition too.  However, what about the siblings?

In our discussion, my neighbor mentioned her younger children would miss M when he leaves. The oldest two spend a lot of time together at home and in school activities. And the youngest has already gotten a little emotional thinking of his big brother leaving home. Younger siblings go through a transition too. They have never known life without their “big” in the house.  And for some with only one sibling, the house may feel dramatically quieter. Here are a few ways to be sensitive to younger siblings in the process:

  1. Get them involved from the start. If you go on a college tour, consider bringing the siblings along. I understand this might not always be feasible, but if possible do it! Make it a family road-trip.  Universities will welcome siblings. They see this as an opportunity to sell their school to not one student in your family, but two or maybe even more. Another neighbor of mine sent her oldest off to the University of Alabama, and when they did her college tour, the younger siblings (twins) went along. I remember the mother commenting she wasn’t going to make the trip twice. In her case, she was going to kill three birds with one stone. Smart Momma. Not only did she work smarter not harder for her own benefit, but she also incorporated the younger children in the process from the beginning, unknowingly preparing for their big sister’s move-in day.
  2. Discuss college options openly. Ultimately the decision will come down to the applicant and parents. College conversations held in the open will ease the shock and surprise come August. Additionally, if younger children are planning on college, the open dialogue will help them prepare for their process.
  3. College signing day. Do you have an athlete in the house? If so, get the whole family involved. This is a big deal. Usually, the first Wednesday in February high school seniors can begin to sign a letter of intent to play a sport for a particular team. Why not involve the entire family. Colleges usually do it up, and younger brothers and sister would enjoy the celebration.  If you don’t have an athlete, of course, you could make your signing day celebration at home just as special.
  4. College apparel. When your child makes a decision, why not visit the bookstore or place an order for a t-shirt or hoodie for your younger children? College students might like to have a shirt from their new school, but just think how proud a younger sibling will feel to show off of their older siblings colors. It’s also fun to wear another university shirt at your college. In this case, the youngest will already have something different to wear if they go to another school.
  5. Hand something down for keepsake or care. When an older sibling leaves for school often the younger child feels a loss. A nice gesture from the college student is to ask the younger sibling to look after something while they’re gone or give a little gift to say you will always be on my mind.
  6. Move-In Day. Bring the kids to help out. Mom’s you can make the bed, but get the younger ones busy with other tasks. They can help unload, carry, and unpack. Helping out and participating in move-in day provides an image of where their sibling will be living over the next few months.
  7. Technology.   Let’s face it, with technology and social media, no one is really that far away. Encourage siblings to connect on social media or through technology as often as they want. As a parent don’t get involved with parameters, let your children figure this out on their own. It should not be a chore. Instead of setting minimum contact requirements, just encourage family members to connect as often as they would like.

Have you done anything that has worked for your family to make sibling separation easier? If so, I would love to hear about it.

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