Deal With Stress

How to Survive After the Kids Leave for College

Here's how to survive after the kids leave for collegeThe college acceptance letters are coming in and you’re beginning to anticipate your child leaving home. I’ve been there, twice. And now my daughter lives overseas! Most of the time I’m okay with it… you get used to it, you know? But sometimes when she sends me little notes, or we chat on Skype, I miss her again. She’s clever and loving and generous, and so very courageous — and you really can’t do hugs on Skype. And then, when we actually visit, it hits hard. It sounds strange, but I don’t realize how much I miss her until I actually see her again. And then she leaves… and I’m so grateful to have a job, well, actually two jobs, because they keep my mind busy until I get used to her absence again.

Sound familiar? Or is the anticipation of it making you sad? Your children are the center of your life. In spite of a job, a home, volunteer work, a social life, most of the decisions you make have factored in your kids in some way. All of a sudden you can’t remember all the annoying things they’ve done, the chores they didn’t do, and how much you worried. All you can see is how much you’ll miss them, that they are moving on to something new, and you really can’t go there with them. This is separation anxiety for parents! (Take a look at the poem by Kahlil Gibran, Your Children Are Not Your Children. It says it all.)

So what do you do now?  Yes, you’ll miss them.  And yes, you’ll never stop worrying about them.  It’s what parents do. But I promise you, there is life after they leave. It’s true: millions of people with adult children are still walking the earth, and some of them are even smiling!  All joking aside, when you get back into your routines, it will ease. You can fill up the space with more of what you usually do OR you can take this time to explore.  Some parents start to remember who they were and the dreams they had BK (Before Kids).

I want you to think about this idea –”take hold and let go”. Basically it means that in order to let go of someone or something (without falling to pieces), you need something to take hold of, to put in its place.  If you have nothing to take hold of, you will struggle more with letting go and be miserable longer.

You have one day… okay, make it two days, to wallow and be sad.  Then it’s time to move on.  Why not make this transition exciting?  What have you put on hold? What absolutely energizes you and has you jumping out of your chair when you think about it?  Maybe it’s a business of your own, cooking classes, travel, feeding the hungry or saving the rain forest.  This is what you take hold of.

Don’t worry about planning out every step.  Planning is good, but you don’t want to get stuck in that phase.  Take one step, and another.  Build some momentum and some excitement.  Don’t be left behind.  Your kids aren’t the only ones with the opportunity to explore new worlds!

Fern Weis is a parent coach and educator who helps parents of teens become confident and strong so they can have a loving relationship AND do whatever it takes to raise their teens to self-sufficient, confident, happy adulthood. For more support in getting through the roller coaster years, visit Take the “10 Mistakes Quiz”, and then take advantage of a no-cost “Parent-Teen Relationship Transformation” Breakthrough Session.

Fern is a certified coach, NJ State Certified teacher, married, and the mother of two wonderful young adults who have taught her more about herself than she could ever have imagined.


2 replies on “How to Survive After the Kids Leave for College”

I loved this, Fern! My youngest of two is a freshman at a college about 125 miles away, and my oldest is a junior, is engaged and applying to grad schools over 800 miles away. I’ve been adapting well, but the thought of seeing my son only four or five times a year while he’s at grad school is unnerving. Your story and strategies helped immensely. Thanks for sharing them.

It’s a major mental and emotional transition. My role as a mom had to change, along with the amount of time and energy I put into just thinking about them. It’s a natural progression, but a tough one. One of the tricks is to think less and do more in your own, new life.

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