I’m conflicted about my child leaving for college – Help!

Dear Roseann,

I’m the mother of 3 children and my eldest just graduated from high school and will be leaving in the fall to attend a university halfway across the country.  I know I should be happy for my daughter and proud of her academic success but I’m so sad that she’ll soon be leaving.  I feel rejected by her when she declines my suggestions to spend time together.  Last week she accused me of being intrusive and controlling because I asked her about her class selections.

My husband thinks I should find a therapist who can help me with this transition because he doesn’t want to see me spending the summer bouncing from sadness to anger about something we should be celebrating.  I’m also hurt that my husband doesn’t seem to understand my feelings about this. 

Could therapy help me do a better job with the letting go part of being a parent?


Dear Nancy,

It is so common for parents to feel a sense of grief and sadness on reaching this important family milestone.  It’s also common that sometimes one parent feels the pain of loss and change around this transition more than the other which can exacerbate the sense of ache and disconnection for the one struggling the most with this change.

While getting your child to the next step of growing up is a symbol of parental success, it also marks the beginning of the end of hands-on parenting duties that have probably consumed a lot of your energy for the last 18 years.  This next phase of parenting requires a change in your relationship with your growing up child.  Confusion often accompanies change because the things we did before no longer work as they once did.  Many of the things you did to get your daughter to this stage of her life will no longer be part of how you connect to her and relate to each other. 

So, how can therapy help?  Having a space to talk about all the complicated feelings associated with this change that is also a loss, might relieve some of the pain.  You can get help sorting out the complicated dance of giving your emerging adult daughter space to experiment with independence while finding ways to help her feel securely connected.  For your daughter, maturation doesn’t have to be individuation and separation.  Working with a relational-cultural therapist can help you negotiate a relationship that enables you to allow your daughter to grow up and stay connected with you and her family in the process—individuation/maturation with CONNECTION.  Raising a child is a sacred task and, as the saying goes, it takes a village.  There’s no shame in seeking help when trying to do well one of the hardest jobs in life, being a good parent.  Please contact me to schedule a first appointment so we can discuss how I could be helpful. I look forward to hearing from you.

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