Separation Anxiety – How are you dealing with your child away at college?

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Over a year ago, our daughter left for college as a freshman. college, anxietyAs parents we certainly felt the pangs of separation anxiety in the days, weeks, and months that followed that dramatic day of drop-off.

She was about to experience a new adventure in her life and we, as parents, were about to do the same. For her it was with a sense of wide-eyed wonder and excitement and for us it was a sense of pain of being separated from our first-born for essentially the first time in our lives.

As parents there are certainly ways to deal with anxiety and make it a little more palatable. As you can certainly imagine, with children heading off to college for the first time, these two posts have become very popular here at Totally Unique Life.

  • She left Home Bye Bye
  • 5 Parental Tips for Dealing with College Separation Anxiety

    It’s almost like you can predict the season based on the popularity of certain articles. As a result of these posts, I heard from other parents who are dealing with the separation anxiety that my wife and I dealt with a little over a year ago.

    It felt good that I could actually help out other parents deal with this powerfully emotional time in their lives.

    Jennifer from the UK, before her daughter left for college, wrote about how the impending separation anxiety was affecting her:

    “I am going through this just now. I am an emotional wreck, can’t eat, can’t sleep…can’t imagine day to day life without my beautiful daughter. It’s supposed to be one of the most natural things in the world- so why can’t I deal with it?
    She’s just about to leave for University (on the 18th Sept (gulp). We have spoken about how I should behave but I cannot get past the fact that she is leaving. We did a lot of stuff together, I suppose I should’ve prepared myself better for this event, but it always seemed years away. It seems to have arrived too quickly, I just wasn’t prepared for the strength of my feelings.”

    Kate, who is from the US, responded to Jennifer’s heartfelt comment with this:

    “Jennifer – you are not alone! I just dropped my oldest off at Northeastern in Boston (45 minutes from home). Even though he is close it is still so hard! I am confident that he will do well both socially and academically, so that does help. I do have another son at home (jr. in high school) and am dreading the day that he leaves! After spending the past 18+ years focusing on my children, it is scary to think about what the future holds for me. Raising my 2 wonderful sons has been the happiest period of my life.”

    Fortunately Jennifer saw Kate’s comment and responded to her:

    “Hi Kate- Seems like so many of us are feeling this way. I hope it’s not too hard for you with your son away. My daughter will be going to London (we’re in the UK) on the 18th, not long now. Raising children is such a wonderful job, but having to say goodbye is heartbreaking.”

    Megan Lyn writes about her feelings about her son leaving for college:

    Thank you so much for posting this. My only son will be heading to college this fall. Thankfully his school is only 147 miles door to door. I often found myself in tears just thinking about not having my “baby” at home every day in a few months’ time. It’s difficult, but I’ll try to follow some of your suggestions on how to cope with my ASAD.”

    El Sheila also sounded in on the matter of college separation anxiety:

    “I love reading your post! It reminded me of my hug with my mom and dad the day they left me at the university where i studied. It felt like a sharp knife went through me. My dad died 3 years ago and reading your post somehow reminded me of him…Thank you for that”

    Ms Freeman comments on the pain of the anxiety when her son joined the Navy:

    “This is such a sweet and heartfelt post. I know your “pain”. My only joined the Navy it’s been 6 years (I know get over it MOM) and he is married and lives in San Diego (Okay just let him go), but the day he left was the hardest day of my life (Yes even worse pain than his birthday).
    We raised them well with strong values and convictions, they spread their wings and fly the strait and narrow. :)”

    I have had the pleasure of being able to stay in contact with a few of these parents after their children have left for school. They, like my wife and I, are dealing with the separation anxiety. It definitely gets easier with time but the feelings are always there. Living with and nurturing your children for so many years makes it so difficult to say goodbye.

    It is wonderful for me that my blog can be a forum where parents who are going through this tough time can support each other and interact. Knowing that you aren’t alone in this plight helps. Overcoming anxiety is not going to happen overnight.

    I wish you all well who are going through first-hand what my wife and I went through last year at this time. It is tough but you will get through it. Your children will grow and blossom over the next four years. We see it in my daughter. She is a strong, confident, and extremely happy young woman who is managing her own life in every way.

    At the same time, she knows that we will always be there for her. I understand that the pain of separation is real but, believe me, it is for the best. It might be hard to understand that now but you will in time.

    If you have anything to share with my fellow parents who may be feeling these pangs of separation anxiety, please feel free to share with us in the comments.

  • 15 thoughts on “Separation Anxiety – How are you dealing with your child away at college?”

    1. When I left home for school, I definitely had my moments suffering from separation anxiety as well! I don’t think it’s just the parents that have a tough time dealing with the transition.

      • Hi Sarah,
        I agree with you! Children also have a tough time being away from home. This post was meant to be a parent perspective on children moving away to college. Thanks for your comment.


    2. hello bob,
      how are you?
      should i say for now i’m glad i’ve got 14 years for my son & 17 years for my daughter before i go through similar experiences lol!!
      although i remember the first time my son went to his nursery, i had to put up a brave face, assure his mum and constantly remind myself he would enjoy it there and believe me he does..
      take care and enjoy the rest of the day

      • Hi Ayo,
        I am great, how are you? I am actually on a 3 day vacation with my wife in Maine (USA) on the Atlantic coast celebrating our 24th anniversary. Wow, you certainly have a long time to wait until you deal with the dreaded separation anxiety. I somehow thought that you were a bit older but maybe you just had children later in life. Believe me, it goes by really fast. My wife and I still cannot believe we are parents of a college girl and in another 3 years another college girl. Enjoy them while they are young. I have to drop by your blog soon. I have been bad about visiting others sites these days. I’ll head over there right now.


    3. My only daughter left in August and is 5 hours away. Gulp the catch in my throat as she leaves to head back from her fall recess. Is this gonna hurt this much each time? Should I seek help is this unusual?

      • Hi Judy,
        Believe me, it gets better. My daughter who is a junior in college was just over for the weekend and headed back today. It is sooo much easier now especially knowing that she is happy at college. I’ve been through my eldest going to college and it was harder when she left to study abroad because I knew we weren’t going to see her for 4 months! The fact that you are within driving distance is very smart. I cannot imagine being so far away that we couldn’t drive to her college in a pinch.
        It will get easier, believe me. I’ve been in your shoes. Try to reach out to other parents because the separation anxiety pain is felt by all of us who have college students. Judy, please keep us posted on how you are doing. You are not alone!


        • Thank you so much for making me feel better. I thought I had given myself the “Pep Talk” planning for this but no matter what it leaves a hole. I was sick to my stomach until she arrived safely. Just have to keep telling myself another few weeks and it will be Thanksgiving and I will be extra thankful this year!!!
          Thanks again

          • Hi Judy,
            I always love the holidays because both of my kids are back home if only for a short time. I especially love the Christmas break because my youngest (the only one left in college) will be home with us for about 3 weeks. It’s so much fun to look forward to. I know that your daughter feels the love that you have for her and I would imagine she is also missing you. It will become progressively easier and be thankful that she isn’t across the country or in another country!


    4. I can’t say that I am glad that I am not alone in feeling such separation anxiety. because it doesn’t make feel better. However, it is comforting to know that we can all share our feelings in this venue where we know everyone totally understands.

      Since I have struggled with bipolar depression for the last 5 years, the upcoming event of my youngest daughter leaving is really stirring some very intense emotions. I feel everything everyone has shared here but in addition I feel that the love and closeness my daughter and I now share will forever change.

      What I can offer to the group, that keeps me going, is to say to myself that my daughter is not going to jail or to “a bad place.” She is going to educate herself and prepare for her future. The alternative would be worse for all of us.

      The other aspect I think about is “survival of the fittest”, to use Darwin’s terms. We as parents have to be strong for our off-spring and for selves. We must lead by example and teach the to be strong and to adapt to new environments for survival. Every animal species has done for billions of years. Humans are the most evolved species on earth, we are expected to evolve and progress more!

      • Well said Liliana! I echo most of your sentiments. Believe me, the closeness you share with your daughter will only strengthen when she is away on her own. It’s good for kids to think about what us as parents have done for them and they will realize that more and more when they are out on their own.


          • Liliana,
            Thanks for your contribution. Everyone who contributes to this article in the comments can help another parent going through similar emotions. I am so grateful that anyone shares their feelings on these pages. If it helps another get through this tough time it’s all worth it. You did a good job of putting it all in perspective. Getting a college education is one of the most important aspects of any child’s life and if we can look past the emotions of the separation, it is easy to see the great benefits that this experience will have for our children.



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