Dear Dr. G.,
My 18 year old daughter is going away to college in 2 weeks. I'm sure that you have heard this story a million times but I hope that you will consider helping me. This is the first of my 3 kids to go off to college. I am literally sick to my stomach about my daughter going away. The odd thing is that my daughter is thrilled to be going. She seems happy and excited and not even a little bit nervous.
Here are my questions:
1. Should I be worried that she is not nervous?
2. Does this mean that her feelings for her family are problematic?
3. How should I deal with my own feelings of loss and sadness?
Please help Dr. G.
A Scared Mother
I am delighted to help. And,yes,of course, I have listened many, many times to the anxieties of parents whose kids are going off to college but I will listen and help some more. That is what I do. It is my honor and pleasure. First, let me say that it would be unusual if you were not having feelings about your daughter becoming more independent and leaving the nest. Keep in mind,though, that this is what she should be doing at this point in her life and you should be very proud of her. The quality of your relationship with her would and should change to a more adult-like relationship.
As for your well-thought out questions here are my best answers based on many years of personal and professional experience. Yes, I too, cried when I dropped my daughter off at college. I wondered who these strange people were and why my daughter was going to live with them. I'm happy to say that these feelings subsided!
1. You should NOT be worried that your daughter is not nervous because the truth is that she probably is nervous but doesn't want to worry you with her feelings. When you calm down then she will feel like there is more room for her to express her feelings. I know that this is easier said than done but it is necessary.
2.A lack of anxiety (if that is in fact the case)is not related to problematic family relationships. In fact, the kids who have better relationships with their families are more secure when it comes to moving on.
3. You must work on moving forward with your life. Your kids need to see that life goes on for parents even when they leave the home. Your kids need to get the message that life is worth living and does not become miserable for their parents as things move forward. Your daughter needs a role model in you. You need to show her that adulthood can be a wonderful time without without kids in the home.
Good luck. I know it's not easy.
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