A College Lesson for Parents
Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. and Rosemary Lichtman, Ph.D.
When you dropped your kids off at college, were you the one dragging your heels? This
generation of parents has been described as clinging, especially when they refuse to leave
the campus. In fact, a number of college administrators have introduced blunt language
into orientation schedules, including a specific time to say goodbye. The message is
clear: release your anxieties and your adult children to this adventure, and enjoy the ride
yourself. The lesson, not taught in the traditional curriculum, is about letting go.
Some colleges have developed parents-only workshops for those who are intensely
involved in their child's academic career. Liaisons give explicit advice on how to
minimize the pain of separation and hovering behaviors. Does all this feel like a
conspiracy to exclude you? After all, it's almost as big a transition for you as for your
kids. But as you say goodbye to your adult kids, here are tips about learning to say hello
1.Recognize that you may feel ambivalent about this new chapter. Bond with
friends as you discuss your situation with those who care about what you're going
through. You'll discover that you have a lot in common and that they feel the
same about their own experiences - this can be validating and comforting.
2.Give yourself an emotional break and watch what happens. Understand that
you are still needed, although not in the same way. Letting go of your parenting
responsibilities means letting go of the family role you've played so far. Sit back
and enjoy the fruits of your labor. And breathe in deeply as you appreciate this
opportunity to create different relationships within your family.
3.Practice letting go. Cry if it helps - it's natural to feel plenty of emotion at this
turning point. Try to visualize one door closing and another door opening. Relax
into feeling more calm and carefree. Let yourself get excited by the possibility of
exploring what you want to do with all the free time you now have.
4.Decide to write regularly in a journal. As you think about what's happening in
your life right now, realize that you, too, are on a more independent path. By
identifying and dealing with what is going on for you emotionally, you'll learn to
take more control over this process of change. Make an inventory of your assets
including what you have done and the value you have created in the past as a
family member, co-worker and friend.
5.Engage in an active process of learning more about what you want to do.
What nurtures your creative thinking? What stimulates your curiosity? Identify
your natural talents. What comes so easily you often don't notice it? How about
the acquired skills you have used successfully? Think about what you consider to