Your kid is going off to college. Holy s*%t.
While there were some occasions a few years back when you thought this moment couldn’t come soon enough, now that it’s here the prospect is hitting you like a ton of bricks.
Your child is leaving. That force of nature who has lived in your house for 18 years. How are you going to survive that loss? How are you going to survive your child going off to college?
Surviving, and even thriving, is not only possible but probable. Here is my latest…
#1 – Pay attention to how you are feeling.
Most likely your body is in physical pain, a result of psychological suffering at the loss of your child. And most likely the center point of that pain is your stomach. The pain is sharp and relentless and makes you feel like you are going to die.
That pain is from anxiety. Anxiety that your child won’t be able to survive without you. That you won’t be able to survive without them. That everything will be different now and how do you deal with that? That pain comes directly from your brain, from your thoughts. Frustrating, no?
There are two ways to deal with that pain.
The first is to talk back to that brain of yours. Tell it that it is being ridiculous. That your child is ready to do this and will be fine. That you have survived their being toddlers and teenagers so you can survive their leaving. And change is good. It’s not easy to talk back to your thoughts but you can do it.
The second is to remember to breathe. Big deep breaths that go down to your belly. Breath in for 3 seconds and out for 5. This kind of breathing will actually calm the stress response in your body, ease your stomach pain and help clear your head. Repeat as necessary.
#2 – Revel in their successes and opportunities.
Your child is going to COLLEGE. How huge is that?
Since they were born one of your dreams for them has been college. College opens up doors for our kids. It allows them to think deep, dream big and share it with all kinds of like-minded and other-minded people. It will clear pathways that will take them forward into the rest of their lives.
And don’t forget the role that you have played in all of this. It is because of you that they are ready to fly, to leave home and thrive. Don’t underestimate the value of this. Without you this never could have happened!
#3 – Cry. But not too much.
It’s okay that that you are feeling sad. Of course you are. And your child is feeling sad too. Leaving home leads to mixed emotions.
Tell your child that you are sad that they are leaving and that you are going to miss them. They need to know. It’s important that they see real emotion from you, emotions that they can mirror as they want.
DON’T go on and on repeatedly about how much you will miss them. Don’t lie on their bed as they pack, sobbing. Don’t make a scene when you drop them off at the dorm. Even if you feel like bursting into tears, don’t. There is time enough for that on the car ride home.
You don’t want to burden your child with the guilt of your sadness because doing so might hamper their ability to assimilate into their new school. This is not good.
So cry… but within reason.
#4 – Plan a visit. But not tomorrow.
Colleges and universities have it all figured out. Usually by October, when everyone is missing each other A LOT, there are parent weekends scheduled. This is a weekend where the kids get to share their new home with you and you get to buy them things. Fun times are had by all.
So plan to do this (and make hotel reservations well ahead of time as they tend to fill up). Planning will make you happy.
DO NOT plan to visit your child before that. Don’t stop by to do their laundry or help with their homework or just because you miss them. It’s like summer camp – they need to go cold turkey from their parents to really settle in. You being around will prevent that from happening.
#5 – Take a good look at the rest of your life.
Even if this child is not your last to leave home now is the time where your life will start to change.
You have spent the past 18 years devoting yourself to your children and running your household. You have given so much of yourself, happily, but now it’s time to start taking care of you.
Take a good hard look at the choices you have made that have brought you to where you are today. Take a good hard look at where you want to be in the next half of your life. Take a good hard look at what is important to you.
This is it. This is your time. You have age and you have wisdom and now it’s time to start at least laying the groundwork to living the life that you have always wanted..
The next few weeks will be tough but you, and your child, will get through it. It’s also a magical time, a time for your child to enter his or her world and for you to begin to grow in yours.
Embrace it. It only happens once.
Are you struggling with how to survive your child going off to college?
I know it can be really, really hard. Let me help before it overwhelms you!
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I am a NYC based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate. My writing has been published on The Huffington Post, Prevention, Psych Central, Pop Sugar, MSN and The Good Man Project, among others. I work with all kinds of people to help them go from depressed and overwhelmed to confident and happy in their relationships and in their world.