Act now to foster a clean launch! You can promote ongoing connection, and avoid the messy “tearing away” that leads to emotional distance.
Start this one today! Put him in charge of his own laundry, bank account and credit card. Teach him how to cook a few things and how to navigate public transportation. Resist the impulse to step in and fix things, and you help empower him to handle life efficiently when he IS on his own.
2. Restrain Yourself: Lean Back and Listen
Tolerate your child's distress and be a non-anxious resource by brushing up on your reflective listening. Check your understanding of what she is thinking and feeling by reflecting back both the thought and the emotion, in a tentative way:
“Sounds like you’re upset because you don't think your grade is fair?”
“So you're saying you're concerned, because you believe your roommate doesn't like you?”
“Let me see if I've got this. You're mad because your Dad is pushing you to take more Math courses next semester?”
You'll be amazed at how much more she will share. She'll be calmer and so will you, and you'll have more information to help discern when something is beyond her ability to solve.
3. Take care of unfinished business – in your own life
Freshmen often report feeling overwhelmed trying to keep up with new challenges and responsibilities.
Model your own commitment to avoid unfinished business. Waiting to return a phone call, finish a task or have a difficult conversation can create a slippery slope towards chaos and resentment. Handle things now and gently encourage your child to do the same, for better relationships and more success.
4. Use humor to practice lighthearted resistance to peer pressure
Your child will have opportunities to get involved in harmful things, from drinking and drugs to unhealthy relationships. Have some fun modeling resistance by practicing an offer of “The Yuckiest Vegetable,” so she’ll have phrases ready to roll off her lips when she encounters more difficult pressure.
It’s fun to practice responses when the pressure is: “If you loved me you'd eat Brussels sprouts!” “No one will ever find out that you ate Brussels sprouts!” “All the cool people eat Brussels sprouts!” She may roll her eyes, but she’ll remember how to say “No, thanks. I’m not into that” in a difficult moment.
5. Get a life-- and make sure your child knows about it.
It's normal for change to produce anxiety in the family. Though wanting to move on with his life, your child may unconsciously worry if you'll be OK, and this misplaced worry often manifests as symptoms of anxiety or depression.
If you have purpose and direction for this next stage of your life, he won't be faced with a choice between tearing away or failing to fully mature. Your connection will become much deeper and richer as you both bring your expanding selves to it. Focusing on yourself during this time can actually bring the greatest benefit to your child!