By now you’ve dropped your child off for their first year at college. Maybe you even circled back around campus to check up on him or her or perhaps you called relentlessly to make sure their room is stocked with toilet paper and that the sweaters were packed. This anxiety is all very normal. You’re simply doing the parenting thing but in overdrive. Anticipating that you’re child may not be OK will only spike your anxiety.
Maybe you vacillate between wanting to be tough and not call or text and in fact, wanting to check in repeatedly. Or perhaps you see this as the next step towards adulthood in your child’s life and question whether he or she is even ready to be away from home and wonder if you did a good job preparing your child for what lies ahead. Regardless, the anxiety will pass and Thanksgiving will be here before you know it.
Here’s how you can deal with your empty nest syndrome and separation anxiety:
1. Be calm
If your child picks up on you feeling anxious or stressed it could end up stressing them out and serve as a distraction from studying. In some ways it can be contagious and naturally you’re child will want to comfort you. This will prevent them from assimilating into the college life. It can also put them in a tough spot where they feel torn: take care of Mom and Dad’s emotions or go out there and experience autonomy.
2. Expect changes
College is time for your child to explore who he or she is and understand self identity. Be supportive and understanding while not being over involved. Your child away from home will undoubtedly develop new habits and behaviors. Perhaps a new diet, entirely different sleeping habits, or maybe even a bout of homesickness. Be respectful of such changes.
3. Understand that you’re not losing your teenager
You’re child going off to college is a sign that you did everything right. Trust that you’ve taught your child well and that he/she will know how to handle the many challenges that could lie ahead — it all builds character. Get excited about this next step in your child’s life. You can replace any sense of loss by re-framing it and recognizing it as progress and accomplishment.
4. Talk to other parents
Your best support might come from fellow parents. They’ll understand your emotions and you can be each other’s best buddies through this transition.
5. Avoid telling your child, “These are the best years of your life.”
Such a saying only puts pressure on your child to make it their best years.
6. Discuss communication with the freshman
Find out what their preference is for communicating. Is it through planned weekly phone calls such as Sunday evenings? Is texting suitable? Or maybe random communication is fine for everyone.
7. Don’t make any major life decisions
For example, separating from your spouse, moving, or turning your child’s bedroom into a rec room. These could all be perceived as too drastic of a change and would cause undo anxiety and interfere with the new life you so wanted them to experience.
So next time you find yourself anxious or upset that your baby is no longer home, remind yourself, that he or she is all grown up now and about to embark on the next exciting phase of his or her life – and if all goes well a true investment in your retirement.
For more tips on dealing with dealing with anxiety, stress, and life changes, check out my book Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days.