As your child settles into their first month of school, it’s only natural for you to experience a surge in anxiety. You may find yourself torn between the urge to check in constantly and the desire to let them navigate this newfound independence. Doubts may creep in, wondering if they are truly prepared for this chapter away from home. These feelings are entirely normal; it’s a sign that your parental instincts are in full gear. However, it’s crucial to remember that your child is on a journey of growth and self-discovery. Worries about their well-being can heighten your own anxiety levels. So, take a deep breath and repeat this mantra: ‘This is normal, and my child will thrive.’

Here are seven strategies to cope with the empty nest syndrome and keep separation anxiety in check:

  1. Embrace the Transition: Your child’s departure for college signifies that you’ve done an excellent job as a parent. Trust in the values and skills you’ve imparted to them. Celebrate this exciting step in their life as a testament to your successful parenting journey.
  2. Expect Growth: College is a time for self-exploration and self-identity development. Be supportive and understanding while allowing your child the space to discover themselves. Understand that their habits and behaviors may evolve, and respect their journey.
  3. Stay Calm: Maintaining composure is vital. Your child can sense your anxiety, and it might burden them, distracting them from their studies. Remember that stress is contagious. Allow your child the freedom to experience college life without feeling torn between taking care of you and exploring their newfound autonomy.
  4. Seek Support: Connect with other parents who are going through the same transition. They can empathize with your emotions and provide valuable support during this period.
  5. Avoid Clichés: Refrain from telling your child that ‘these are the best years of your life.’ Such clichés can place unnecessary pressure on them. Chances are, they’ve heard it before during high school.
  6. Communication Preferences: Discuss communication expectations with your freshman. Find out their preferred mode of communication, whether it’s scheduled weekly calls, texting, or spontaneous messages.
  7. Avoid Major Life Changes: Refrain from making significant life changes, such as separating from your spouse, moving, or transforming your child’s room into a recreation area. These changes can be perceived as too drastic and might interfere with the new experiences you want your child to enjoy.

The next time you feel the pangs of anxiety or sadness about your child being away from home, remind yourself, with pride and confidence, that they are now embarking on an exciting new phase of life, well-prepared and ready for the journey ahead.

For more tips from Jonathan, check out his book, Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days.


  • Jonathan Alpert

    Psychotherapist, executive performance coach, and author of Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days. Twitter: @JonathanAlpert

    Jonathan Alpert is a psychotherapist, columnist, performance coach and author in Manhattan. As a psychotherapist, he has helped countless couples and individuals overcome a wide range of challenges and go on to achieve success. He discussed his results-oriented approach in his 2012 New York Times Opinion piece, “In Therapy Forever? Enough Already”, which continues to be debated and garner international attention. Alpert is frequently interviewed by major TV, print and digital media outlets and has appeared on the Today Show, CNN, FOX, and Good Morning America discussing current events, mental health, hard news stories, celebrities/politicians, as well as lifestyle and hot-button issues. He appears in the 2010 Oscar-winning documentary, Inside Job commenting on the financial crisis. With his unique insight into how people think and their motivations, Alpert helps clients develop and strengthen their brands. He has been a spokesperson for NutriBullet, Liberty Mutual insurance, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Jonathan’s 2012 book BE FEARLESS: Change Your Life in 28 Days has been translated into six languages worldwide. Alpert continues to provide advice to the masses through his, Huffington Post, and Thrive columns. @JonathanAlpert