This is the time of the year when parents of only children have to let go. Although we have written about this very emotional time in the only child household in the past, Amy Dickinson’s, Ask Amy syndicated advice column puts it in clear perspective.
Dear Amy: My daughter recently left for college, and I am having a difficult time with her not being around. I am proud of her and excited about this new chapter she is starting, but I am sad about her absence.
I constantly hear from family and friends that I “should be happy for her.” They say, “Stop crying, she will be fine,” or my favorite: “You have to be strong for her.”
I find this condescending.How can I politely tell them that I need time to adjust and that this is difficult for me? We are very close.
Dear Anonymous: Your friends and family members seem to misunderstand why you are sad and emotional. You are not crying for your daughter; you are crying for yourself.
And — this is completely normal. You and your daughter are both experiencing a huge life transition. Ultimately this will yield unexpected joys and challenges to both of you. What you must not do is impose your emotional response onto your daughter.
In life, it is the child’s job, ultimately, to leave the nest. The parent’s burden is to let her leave, and to celebrate her independence in stages. Do not share your feelings with people who are unsympathetic or judgmental, but instead with people (in person or online) who share your perspective and can offer support. Read “Letting Go (Fifth Edition): A Parent’s Guide to Understanding the College Years,” by Karen Levin Coburn and Madge Lawrence Treeger (2009, Harper Perennial).
If you find that you are extremely upset on a daily basis or that your depression and sadness don’t abate through time, you should pursue professional counseling to better understand and process your emotions. Tackling this successfully will be good for you and will model balanced and mature behavior for your college student.
Amy Dickinson is an American newspaper columnist who writes the syndicated advice column, Ask Amy. Dickinson has appeared as a social commentator on ABC’s Good Morning America