You’re going to be okay. I promise.
And your child is going to be okay, too.
I know what you just did feels absolutely surreal. And also crushing in a very confusing way. You’re being absolutely bowled over by the realization of the truth of “the days are long but the years are short.” You truly don’t understand how you got here—driving away from a college campus, your car empty of everything that filled it on the drive up, including part of your heart---the part that lives and beats in the child you just dropped off.
Back home, your house feels quiet. Your fridge won’t need to be replenished every two days. The gas tank in your car won’t constantly be nearing empty from driving to various activities, sports, and school events. The laundry machine won’t be humming as much as it has for the past, well, 18 years.
And you’re probably thinking “my baby doesn’t need me anymore. I’ve lost part of my relationship because my child is growing beyond me.”
But guess what? You are your child’s mother and your child will always need you.
In fact, your child may need you now more than ever, just in different ways. Your role as a mother will continue to evolve as your child begins this amazing new experience and life stage. So how can you support your child in the coming weeks and months as they adjust to life as a college student?
Our St. Louis Therapist Offers Tips for Moms of College Students:
Prepare for Homesickness
Some students hit the ground running at college and never look back. Others take a longer time to adjust and feel secure in their new setting. Regardless of how easy or hard the transition may be, it’s almost a given that feelings of homesickness will strike at some point.
This can lead to a tearful call home that can be just as hard (or harder!) for the parent as it is for the student. Knowing that you’ll have this conversation at this point can help you be prepared.
One tip is to set a date for your child’s first trip home even before you drop them off at school. Having this date on the calendar can be extremely helpful for both of you. You’ll have a countdown for that first visit back home, and in the meantime you'll know your child is adjusting to their new surroundings.
Find New Ways to Connect
You've carefully helped pack their bags, set up their dorm room, and now it's time to embrace a new phase of your relationship—one that involves adapting to their newfound independence. While distance may physically separate you, there are countless new ways to stay connected with your college student and continue to play an important role in their lives.
One is to show an interest in the new connections they’re making at college. Learn the names of your child’s new friends, and learn their stories. Mentioning these friends in your conversations can make your child feel that you're actively involved in their experiences and relationships, despite the miles between you.
Also, you can demonstrate interest in their coursework and extracurricular activities. Share a few words of encouragement to boost their confidence and remind them that you're there to support them every step of the way.
Is your child nervous about midterms? Send a care package with some of their favorite snacks from home. Morning of a big exam? Send a good luck text to let your child know you’re thinking of them. All these small gestures add up, reminding you both of your connection.
Ensure Support for Yourself
Just as starting college is a huge transition for your child, it’s equally enormous for parents. Whether this is your first, only, or last child moving away, it’s a life-changing adjustment. In some ways, it can feel just as disorienting as when your child was born and life felt completely different.
While it’s not a clinical diagnosis, empty nest syndrome refers to the very real feelings of grief that parents experience when their children move out of their home. While this stage does present new opportunities, it’s important to recognize the significance of this transition.
So, it’s important to give yourself time and space to grieve and celebrate at the same time.
Without a doubt, you’ll miss your child’s daily physical presence in your house. But this can also be an opportunity to reclaim some time and energy for yourself. Perhaps you’d like to try a new hobby, or return to one that was enjoyable for you at an earlier stage in life. You may like to travel more, set up weekly coffee dates with close friends, or dive into some projects at home.
You can prioritize your own needs and renew your commitment to exercise, cooking healthy meals, and getting enough sleep. You can also focus on your mental health and make sure you’re getting the support you need to thrive in this new phase of life.
At Marble Wellness, a therapy practice in St. Louis, Missouri, we specialize in working with moms at all stages of motherhood. We have therapists who love working with parents going through the transition of becoming empty-nesters and can support you during this stage of life. Reach out to us today. We are here for you and excited to work with you.
Spotlight on St. Louis Therapist, Whitney Griggs
Whitney Griggs is a dedicated mental health clinician and team member at Marble Wellness. Whitney specializes in child therapy, therapy for preteens, anxiety, depression, and maternal mental health. She is passionate about helping moms move through the transition of having a child move to college or whatever phase of life comes after high school.
Whitney's approach to therapy centers around forging meaningful connections. She establishes a strong rapport, where individuals feel at ease discussing their thoughts. Tailoring her techniques to each person's comfort zone, she utilizes interactive methods such as therapeutic games, artistic expressions, or park therapy sessions, adapting to diverse preferences.
Whitney understands that deciding to seek therapy can be tough. Right from the start, she aims to create a sense of trust and partnership. She envisions therapy as a collaboration, where she guides you in understanding and managing your emotions, helping you face challenges with newfound strength.
Contact Marble Wellness today to schedule your first session and partner with Whitney on your road to positive change.
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