Letting Go As Your Child Leaves the Nest
This is especially true when dropping off a son or daughter to college for the first time.
Gwen McIntosh, MD, a pediatrician who treats patients at UW East Clinic and at American Family Children's Hospital, sees many of her teenage patients and their parents wrestle with the challenges of balancing independence and connectedness.
"Parents are certainly more engaged in their child's lives compared with prior generations," says Dr. McIntosh.
"This often makes it harder to break away, especially at times such as first taking a child to college. As tempting as it may be for parents to linger or even spend a night, I encourage mom and dad to help their child unload their belongings, and then leave campus. Students need to be free to focus on their activities and meeting new friends. They should not feel torn between orientation events and hovering parents."
Dr. McIntosh noted that communication technologies – if used properly – can help bridge the distance between parents and their college kids.
Video Series: Dr. Gwen McIntosh Offers Advice for Parents
"With Facebook, Skype, email, cell phones and texting, there are so many ways for families to stay connected," says Dr. McIntosh. "At the same time, it is important for both parents and students to use these technologies in moderation. Many college psychologists suggest adhering to a 'Once a day in one way' rule of thumb, meaning that contact more frequent than this may be excessive."
While we all can miss our children, says Dr. McIntosh, "it is not helpful to them if we are barraging them with contacts that can be distracting at best or suffocating at worst. To best help your child, however brief, reminders of your love and support go a long way."
Are You Ready?
Have a child leaving for college soon? Are you ready?
Date Published: 11/17/2010