Part 2 of 2 part series

By: Sarah Zucker, PsyD

When a child leaves for college, or even just moves out for the first time, it is a big adjustment for the entire family. Here we explore two more things to help you through the transition.

Anxiety and Adjustment to College2. Resist the urge to micromanage or check-up too often. Have a discussion with your child regarding both of your expectations about communicating and what feels right. Don’t call or text simply to assuage your fears about if they are OK or if they did this or that. Trust in your child and the process as hard as that may be. The more you practice, the easier it gets. The benefit from all of this is that as you let your child transition into adulthood and independence, you cultivate a new relationship with them that takes on more of a peer dynamic. You can appreciate them for who they are, and you don’t have to manage their lives anymore. Since you raised your sweet child from a helpless infant, this change in roles understandably takes some time to get used to. But the more you respect you child’s budding autonomy, the more they will appreciate your support and come to you as a confidant. It’s true that you’ll always be their parent, and not their friend, but as long as things are going well, it should start to look more like a relationship between two competent adults who really like each other. If you’re having a hard time with this, it helps to talk to someone who has been through it before. Also, a counselor or therapist can give you a space to talk at length about your feelings so you can avoid overwhelming your child or partner with too much communication.

3. Prepare for your child’s move before it happens. Carve out some family time or a family vacation well in advance to your child leaving, so you’re not trying to cram it in when everyone is stressed and your child is wanting to spend time with their friends. With one less child in the house, you may now have more time. What have you been wanting to learn or give your time to that you couldn’t before? Is there an organization where you’d like to volunteer? Who would you like to catch up with that you haven’t seen in a while? Start planning for the change well in advance by reconnecting and researching. Think about how you would like your days to go and plan out a tentative schedule. Structure is helpful during any difficult transition, and this is no exception.

You may have several other children at home who still need you. Think about how you can give more time and energy to them now that your oldest child has left for college. It’s also a chance for you and your partner to reconnect and spend more time together. You may find you’re getting to know each other all over again. Fortunately, if anyone at home is struggling with the change in family dynamics, there are excellent therapists in San Diego who are here to help. Some spouses find they benefit from couple’s therapy to help them adjust to the changes in their relationship.

Now that we’re well past this time in my life, my parents and I can look back on it fondly. I’m closer with them than ever before, and I appreciate them as parents and people in a whole new way. But like anyone, we weren’t without our bumps in the road. Treat yourself with loving kindness as you begin on this tumultuous yet rewarding journey, and remember help is available.


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Read Part 1 in this series Anxiety and Adjustment to College.