Consider the following story as it relates to this week’s topic.
Last week, my husband and I dropped our oldest son off at college. After 18 years of having him at home, he’ll pretty much be on his own and it worries me. This pandemic is causing me to conjure up worst-case scenarios about his health. Some of his classes are in-person, and let’s face it, kids haven’t been the best at social distancing. It doesn’t help that I keep seeing news stories of colleges having COVID-19 outbreaks. I’m scared he’ll get sick. I’ve spoken to him a couple of times since he left, and each time, he ensures me that he’s doing fine and taking precautions to be safe, but for me, it’s never enough. How can I get over my anxiety of having him away without worrying all the time?
When your child leaves for college, it can make you proud of their accomplishments and frightened for their safety. Throw in a global pandemic and the anxiety that might result can be overwhelming. If you’re one of the many parents whose child has recently left for college, we understand the mix of emotions you’re going through, but know that you aren’t alone! We help many parents cope with their child leaving for college. Our licensed psychologists and therapists in Tampa would like to discuss this topic at length.
Leaving the Nest
Feeling excited and scared for your college-aged child is normal, and there are ways you can cope. A Today.com article by Melissa T. Shultz, author of From Mom to Me Again: How I Survived My First Empty Nest Year and Reinvented My Life, suggests spending some time contemplating how you would like your life to be different now that your day-to-day parenting responsibilities have left more time for you. She found that parents who prepared by going back to work or finding new interests coped easier with their newfound empty nest.
Carin Rubinstein, professor of psychology at Pima College, also learned through her own survey that parents who move on the quickest actively prepared themselves for their kids’ departure. Rubinstein has some tips to help parents:
- Understand that your sadness will pass. Many parents experience grief when their kids leave for college, however, after a month or two, they’ll likely be able to move on.
- Be easy with yourself and acknowledge this big change in your life. You’re saying goodbye to your child (even if it’s only temporary) and your familiar way of life as well. You may find the transition to be easier once the dust settles.
- Focus on your family and relationships. Many people fear how their marriage or other children may adjust. Use this time to reconnect with your spouse and encourage your child to stay in touch with you all via Zoom or FaceTime.
- Set up weekly phone calls or chats that connect your entire family. Letting your child know that communication is always open is key.
Although your college student/child may have tuned you out by now, we still recommend having conversations with them to make sure they understand and are taking the safety and health guidelines with the ongoing pandemic seriously. And never hesitate to stalk your child’s school’s website to learn what they’re requiring for safety.
If Your Child Stays Home
Many students will be continuing to live at home while attending college classes online. How can you help yours adjust to this “new normal?” This is a difficult situation for everyone. Not only is your child adapting to online learning, but he/she/they won’t have the independence or social experiences they might’ve had under normal circumstances. Here are some helpful tips on navigating through this period together:
- Connect with those experiencing the same as you are for support and sharing ideas.
- Offer guidance to your child without handholding. It’s okay to ask if they need help or how they’re adjusting. Remember that they need to learn to navigate new situations on their own.
- Help your child create their own independence at home. Let them establish routines, balance their schedules, and handle their day-to-day chores as if they were away at college.
- Encourage your child to safely stay connected with their peers through social distancing, Zoom groups, or FaceTime.
By helping yourself first, you can help your loved ones.
Let’s Talk About It
Our licensed psychologists and therapists in Tampa understand the challenges COVID-19 has brought to everyone. We encourage you to never face them alone if they’re overwhelming. We’re currently offering online sessions via telehealth and a limited number of telehealth evaluations. To schedule your free, 10-minute consultation, please don’t hesitate to contact us today!
We’ll be hosting our next Parent Clubhouse meeting on Thursday, October 1st at 7:00 PM via Zoom. This’ll be a safe way for you to speak with other parents and us about the struggles you’re facing with your child. We’re filling up fast, so make sure to email Dr. Wendy Rice at firstname.lastname@example.org to save your spot! To learn more about this meeting and how to join, click here.