The Goodbye Girl

I'm leaving for my first year of college and my mom is already suffering from separation anxiety. What can I do to ease her stress? 

Your question is frequently asked, as parents and students often struggle to overcome "empty nest syndrome" when their children head off for their first year. With 2.2M traditional first-time freshmen starting college each year, parental anxiety is an ongoing concern. There are several things you can do to ease your mom's worries as she looks toward the coming months. 

Your departure for college is a huge family milestone, so it's quite natural for parents to feel a sense of loss, after all you've been there all of your life. It can often be more traumatic for them than for you. Your mom may fear that you are not ready to handle life as an independent woman; it's your job to reassure her that you are.

If you can show that you are responsible and quite capable of doing your own cooking, washing, and managing your own finances, it will go a long way to ease her anxiety. Many moms just fear that their children will not be able to manage on their own once they leave the nest. While you are still at home, take personal charge of moving matters to demonstrate your independence and ability. Shop around for a moving company, arrange for your car transport if needed, gather any relevant medical records, etc.

Next, talk to your mom and don't be afraid to be bring up sensitive topics such as alcohol, drugs, and sex. These are the things you will be exposed to at college and they are probably at the top of her worry list. Reassure her that you are responsible enough to handle any situation that arises and will be vigilant over your personal safety.

Technology has advanced since your parents were at college so keeping in touch has never been easier. There are multiple ways to stay in touch including phone, email, social media, chat, IM and, of course, snail mail. If she doesn't have one already, introduce her to a smartphone and show her how easy it is to setup a video call. Set up a routine time for a call once a week. Knowing that she will be able to see you will go a long way to ease her fears.

During college orientation, attend parent sessions to show your mom where you will be staying and familiarize her with your new home for the next four years. She may also be able to meet some of the faculty and get peace of mind that there will be responsible adults looking over you all.

Preparing and decorating your new room is another chance to bond with your family by letting them all participate. Being part of your new life lessens the feeling of total separation. Shopping for home furniture, linens, lighting, etc. can be a family experience before you officially begin classes.

There are a lot of resources such as books and websites with guidance for parents when their children head off to college. She is not alone with her anxiety so there may be social support groups online that can offer advice and a friendly environment.

There is a moment, a chip in time, when leaving home is the lesser crime - Paul Simon.

(Martin J. Young is a former correspondent of Asia Times).

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