Kid off to college? Don't forget siblings

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Q. When a child leaves for college, everyone worries about how Mom and Dad will handle the change. But what about younger siblings?

A. After drop-off, the family dynamic changes, and younger children's reactions need to be acknowledged and validated, says Jennifer Powell-Lunder, who grew up in Roslyn and is now an adjunct professor of psychology at Pace University in Westchester and co-author of "Teenage as a Second Language: A Parent's Guide to Becoming Bilingual."

She offers this advice:

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* Encourage the college student to communicate with siblings directly through texting or video chat, not just when calling home to talk to Mom or Dad. "You really need to pull the older one aside and say, 'It's going to be a great loss for your brother or sister and it would be really great if you reach out to them.'" The older sibling has often been the role model or go-to person.

* Parents shouldn't suddenly zero in on the next sibling in line, especially if there are just two children in the family. "All of a sudden, they are on them like a fly on flypaper." Be careful not to put pressure, scrutiny and expectations on the younger siblings.

* Control your emotional reaction. Some parents get depressed and think, "This is a sign of my age," or they miss the older child intensely. "You can be upset, that's normal, but walking around like the sky has fallen is not going to help the kids left behind."

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