Hello parents and welcome to the new school year!
It can be a stressful experience when your son or daughter leaves for college, especially if he or she hasn’t been away from home before. During this important family transition time, many parents put their own feelings and reactions on hold as they help their child prepare for college life. However, attending to your own emotional needs, as well as your child’s, will go a long way toward helping everyone feel comfortable with the challenges ahead.
As you drive away from the campus or leave the airport, you may feel anything from relief to sadness to a kind of frozen numbness. You may also find yourself swinging from one emotional state to another.
One mother recalled:
“I cried a lot—I’m crying now talking about it. I cried most of the way home. But my husband was upbeat and excited for her. In fact, I think our emotions weren’t so different; I don’t feel only sadness, it’s a combination of sadness and joy. I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster, both missing her and feeling very happy for her.”
A father recalled:
“It was the longest ride home—I had an empty, very lonely feeling, knowing I wouldn’t see my daughter for a couple of months. It hit me harder than I expected.”
Another parent remembers:
“Going home, I felt relieved and reassured—very different from other parents I’ve talked to. I had been so worried about things, like how the roommate situation would work out, but it all seemed fine. So, I wasn’t sad on the way home; I just felt ‘Oh, this will be good for my kid.’ I hadn’t expected to feel relieved; I’d expected to be very upset. It was only later, after I got home and got back into my life and realized that he wasn’t here, that I really missed him.”
It’s important to remember that these reactions are normal!
When your son or daughter leaves for college, you may be surprised or even upset at the intensity of your feelings. After all, you’ve been preparing for your child’s departure for months, why can’t you take it in stride?
Some Ways to Cope
In addition to contacting the Personal Counseling Office, check out these resources for ways to cope when your son or daughter leaves for college.
- Helpful Tips
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Empty Nest Syndrome
- Empty Nest without Feeling Empty
- When Your Kid Goes to College (Carol Barkin, author)
- Letting Go: A Parent’s Guide to Understanding the College Years (Karen Levin Coburn, author)
- Psychology Today
Each family experiences this period of change, turmoil, and readjustment in a unique way. And for nearly everyone, there are times of unhappiness, questioning, and deep concern. But for most parents, any lingering fears and disappointments are soon outweighed by the positive feelings of excitement and pride as they watch their kids begin to establish themselves as independent, responsible human beings.