Finding a new sense of normal when a child ventures off to college can be very difficult for some parents.
After months of preparation, including a sea of college visits, the grueling application process, making the final decision regarding which college to attend, buying literally everything my daughter needed for her dorm room and helping her settle in, the time had arrived – it was time to say goodbye. The swirl of emotion that enveloped me was absolutely dizzying. I tried to convince myself that I was ready for this. After all, I had 18 years to prepare…
And then, like a shot of Novocaine, I went completely numb. Nothing was the same. From the number of items in my grocery cart to the diminished pile of dirty clothes in the hamper – everywhere I turned was a constant and painful reminder that life as I knew it was never going to be the same. I did my best to prepare. I knew it would be hard. But the truth is, I never realized it would be this hard.
Profound sadness over a child leaving for college is not only very real, it’s far more common than you might think. Finding a new sense of normalcy in your life can be a slow process that takes time. Here are a few things you can do to help you find your stride.
8 Ways to Shake Off Your “Kid’s at College” Blues
1. Give Yourself the Freedom to be Sad
People can feel sadness as a result of separation, the end of a time in their lives, or even profound change. Don’t be too hard on yourself. This is a process led by your heart – when you’re ready to embrace the change in your life, you will.
2. Focus on Your Other Children Still Living at Home
Oftentimes, the year leading up to a child leaving for college is filled with paperwork, never-ending college discussions, college visits and sometimes, with anxiety typically at a high, a fair amount of arguing. Now is a good time to redirect your attention to your other children who may have been temporarily placed on the sidelines. It won’t be long before they head off to college too, so relish in the time you have with them.
3. Lean on Friends Who Can Relate
The most important thing to remember is that you’re not alone. While many parents don’t discuss it openly, many are feeling the same sense of loss and loneliness that you are. Take the time to open up to friends who can relate to what you’re feeling and experiencing. Most parents will find comfort in knowing that they’re not the only one feeling this way. Plus, having someone to talk with who understands first-hand, the immense changes in your life will bring you a tremendous amount of comfort and help you begin to accept and embrace the positive side of change.
4. Find a Creative Outlet
If you’re like most parents, you’ve been so busy “parenting” that the idea of taking up a hobby or finding a creative outlet just hasn’t been on the top of your priority list. However, now that you have a little more time on your hands, maybe it’s time to begin thinking about what you want.
What makes you happy? What brings you comfort? What brings you peace? For some, it might be scrapbooking, cooking, writing or painting. For others, it could be writing music, learning photography, gardening or redecorating your home. The idea here is to engage in an activity that brings you a sense of fulfillment and joy.
5. Make Plans
Sometimes the best way to take your mind off of something you’re struggling with is to get busy. So, go ahead, make plans! Plan a weekend with your girlfriends, invite friends over for a movie night or barbecue, plan an evening at the theater or take time to enjoy a local festival. Use this time to reconnect with your spouse (since raising teens can sometimes put the kibosh on couple time) and enjoy a glass of wine and appetizers at a local restaurant or take a stroll through the park. Keeping your calendar full of fun things that you can look forward to will help you get through those tough days.
6. Focus on Your Health
It may sound cliché’ – after all, it seems everywhere you turn the absolute cure-all for anything going wrong in your life is to exercise and eat healthy. Face it, who wants to spend time at the gym running on a treadmill when you’re feeling so down? A big package of Oreo cookies and a comfy couch has a much better ring to it.
However, if there’s ever a time for you to get moving, now is the time. Not only will you begin to feel better once you look in the mirror and begin to the see the positive changes in your body and in your health, it’s been proven that regular exercise can work just as well as medication for some people suffering from anxiety and depression.
7. Spend Time Outdoors
When you’re feeling low there’s nothing more comforting than being in your own home, in your own bed with all your own things surrounding you. But, sometimes, too much of a good thing is just plain bad. You need to break free from the confines of your walls and get outside. Start walking with a friend, take up golf, venture off on a hiking trail or go on a bike ride. The fresh air will do you a world of good and you’ll feel better about yourself to boot.
8. Take a Get-A-Way Trip
Sometimes a change of scenery is the absolute best medicine to offer a fresh perspective. A weekend trip to the beach, a few days in a little cottage tucked in the woods to relish the crisp fall air, or a fancy get-a-way to your dream spot will give you the much-needed time to digress from daily life and perhaps begin to embrace the positive aspects of this change in your life.
Sending a child off to college is bittersweet – on one hand, you’re proud and excited that your child is embarking on this new and exciting venture in their life, however, on the other hand, the thought of losing that day-to-day interaction and involvement in their life is unsettling.
Most parents don’t understand the whirl of emotion until they’ve been through it and many who have experienced it simply don’t expect to feel the profound sense of sadness that they do. The important thing is to take a moment for yourself and work through the transition at your own pace. Rest assured, by finding fulfillment in other areas of your life, in time you’ll begin to see the positive side of this change in your life.
Words of Wisdom:
The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.” Alan Watts
Nancy Reynolds lives in a suburb outside of Atlanta with her husband, three teenagers and two cats who think they’re dogs. As a determined dreamer, self-proclaimed caffeine enthusiast and sugar-coated idealist, she takes pride in bringing fresh, uplifting and very “real” perspectives to life as a mother and wife.
When she’s not writing to make a living, you can find Nancy sitting on her porch sipping iced-tea, eating M&M’s and blogging away (that’s, of course, after she finishes getting caught up on the laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning and running errands). You can find Nancy at www.raisingteenstoday.com or on Facebook and Twitter.