Each separation, whether it is for a holiday, returning back to school in the fall, spring break, etc. has not gotten a whole lot easier for me through the years. My experience is probably not all that encouraging. Fortunately, I have discovered I am not the only parent who feels that way. Everyone is going to experience this process differently, and that is OK. As a parent, it goes against everything I have done for 18 years – although it is the goal of these 18 years – creates complete cognitive dissonance. One friend said it felt as if something was being ripped from inside of her and another friend reported feeling like it was counter-intuitive to role of being a mother. But you will get through it and a “new normal” evolves.
It is important to recognize though that this adjustment often triggers a mild depression, so be prepared to seek help if you can’t seem to move past a depression. Speaking with other parents is a great comfort and resource too or seek out a support group. Keep a daily log to measure your progress. This also is a great venue to express your feelings without projecting them onto your college student. Engage yourself in other activities, things you enjoy. Fill the void and keep yourself busy.
Some guidelines or suggestions to follow that will help your son or daughter, thus your relationship, is not to hover over them, let your kid initiate the phone calls. Be a good listener and don’t give advice, unless they ask for it or they have given you permission to provide it.
When your kids call, be available. Be a positive supporter and praise them when they are making good decisions. I send my son Bible verses and/or daily devotions that I think he might enjoy or are particularly useful for something he is going through. And all college kids LOVE care packages, especially those filled with gift cards.
When we visit his college, I go by all of his favorite places, such as his favorite coffee shop, yogurt shop, sandwich shop and purchase lots of gift cards to send just as encouragement, for gifts or to say, “I love you.”
Lisa Elliott is a licensed psychologist and clinic manager of Cook Children’s Behavioral Health, located at 3201 Teasley Lane, Ste. 202, Denton, TX 76210. To make an appointment, call the Cook Children’s Intake Department at 682-885-3917. Cook Children’s Psychology provides care focused on children’s behavior, from ages 3 years through 17.