By now you’ve dropped your child off for their first year at college. Maybe you even circled back around campus to check up on him or her or perhaps you called relentlessly to make sure their room is stocked with toilet paper and that the sweaters were packed. This anxiety is all very normal. You’re simply doing the parenting thing but in overdrive. Anticipating that you’re child may not be OK will only spike your anxiety.

Maybe you vacillate between wanting to be tough and not call or text and in fact, wanting to check in repeatedly. Or perhaps you see this as the next step towards adulthood in your child’s life and question whether he or she is even ready to be away from home and wonder if you did a good job preparing your child for what lies ahead. Regardless, the anxiety will pass and Thanksgiving will be here before you know it.

Here’s how you can deal with your empty nest syndrome and separation anxiety:

1. Be calm

If your child picks up on you feeling anxious or stressed it could end up stressing them out and serve as a distraction from studying. In some ways it can be contagious and naturally you’re child will want to comfort you. This will prevent them from assimilating into the college life. It can also put them in a tough spot where they feel torn: take care of Mom and Dad’s emotions or go out there and experience autonomy.

2. Expect changes

College is time for your child to explore who he or she is and understand self identity. Be supportive and understanding while not being over involved. Your child away from home will undoubtedly develop new habits and behaviors. Perhaps a new diet, entirely different sleeping habits, or maybe even a bout of homesickness. Be respectful of such changes.

3. Understand that you’re not losing your teenager

You’re child going off to college is a sign that you did everything right. Trust that you’ve taught your child well and that he/she will know how to handle the many challenges that could lie ahead — it all builds character. Get excited about this next step in your child’s life. You can replace any sense of loss by re-framing it and recognizing it as progress and accomplishment.

4. Talk to other parents

Your best support might come from fellow parents. They’ll understand your emotions and you can be each other’s best buddies through this transition.

5. Avoid telling your child, “These are the best years of your life.”

Such a saying only puts pressure on your child to make it their best years.

6. Discuss communication with the freshman

Find out what their preference is for communicating. Is it through planned weekly phone calls such as Sunday evenings? Is texting suitable? Or maybe random communication is fine for everyone.

7. Don’t make any major life decisions

For example, separating from your spouse, moving, or turning your child’s bedroom into a rec room. These could all be perceived as too drastic of a change and would cause undo anxiety interfere with the new life you so wanted them to experience.

So next time you find yourself anxious or upset that your baby is no longer home, remind yourself, that he or she is all grown up now and about to embark on the next exciting phase of his or her life – and if all goes well an true investment in your retirement.

For more tips on dealing with dealing with anxiety, stress, and life changes, check out my book Be Fearless: Change Your Life in 28 Days.

Originally published at


  • 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