How to Deal With Separation Anxiety When Kids Go to College

How to Deal With Separation Anxiety When Kids Go to College

It’s never easy when kids leave home, but it’s usually what’s best for everyone involved.


As we pulled into the campus parking lot of her upstate university, I was terrified. At the same time, I felt like a proud parent because the big day had finally come. My little girl was moving into a college dormitory. While it was difficult for me, I knew it was time to put my feelings aside, let go, and be supportive.

She was so excited to be going to college. For me, all I could think about was her leaving home for the first time. How was I to protect her when I'm not there?

I was careful not to ruin her moment. Instead, I hung around for hours helping her unpack, getting settled in, and getting to know her dorm mates. I could not bring myself to the point of saying goodbye. By nightfall, we had decided to pile back into our car and head back down to New York City for one last weekend at home together.

I had stolen an extra two days with my only child.

For that I was grateful, but Sunday afternoon came quickly and she proved more grown-up than I had given her credit for. She was braver than I was when she hugged me goodbye before turning to walk away to board a bus back to campus.

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In the proceeding days and months, I suffered from separation anxiety. At the time, I had not learned how to function without that sense of responsibility.

I kept waiting for phone calls asking my opinions and advice, but they never came. It took me some time to realize it wasn't because I was not a good parent. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I had done such a good job raising her and preparing her for the real world that she was adjusting exceptionally well. Once I reached that realization, I was truly ready to trust the process and let go.

So for all you moms and dads out there in a similar situation, here’s how I dealt with the separation anxiety.

  • By trusting the person I raised, who I know to be an elegant and intelligent young adult.
  • By giving my child space to adjust to her new environment.
  • By always pausing to take her calls, then realizing everything was okay.
  • By maintaining a consistent dialog without creating drama, by making her know I am safe to talk to about grades, friendship, dating, etc.
  • By encouraging dialog between her and her aunts closer in age, because I figure there may be certain things she won't tell me that she can talk to them about.
  • By providing budgeting advice or a weekly allowance for social activities which gives her a sense of freedom.
  • By letting her know the door is always open if she wants to come home on the weekends.
  • By exploring my passions (writing and traveling) and learning on a daily basis how to spend time with and take care of one person: myself.

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