Here’s how to ease your separation anxiety:
1. Surrender Your Sex Police Badge: Sure, you can slow down in the CVS condom aisle, but be cool. That ship has probably sailed during high school. If your child has watched Game of Thrones like my son, he knows more about fornication than you did after your honeymoon.
2. Become a Social Network Stalker: Is he dating? Has he grown sideburns, or joined a cult like the cheer squad? Refrain from commenting: It’s not stalking if they don’t see you hovering.
3. Eat your Veggies, Skip the Magic Mushrooms: We all did our share of drinking and toking and tripping in college – at least I did. I’d like my son to do as I say, not as I did – but he already knows what I did. While ‘just say no’ may be too much to expect – replace it with ‘just don’t get caught.’ If you must, experiment with trusted friends, in safe environments.
4. Chuck the Emotional Baggage: This is their leap into the unknown – not yours. I remember pushing my mother out of my Berkeley dorm the second we’d dumped my stuff. That may have been the one time in my entire college career that I refused a free meal. I turned out well and even brought her two grandkids to kvell from.
5. Avoid Wail Watching: Be prepared for tears. Your own. Do not expect to cry it out together. Remember when you left your kid at day care for the first time and wept all the way from the jungle gym to your Brooklyn stoop? Cry on the way home.
6. Disconnect: Don’t expect that daily phone call or text. Let them go. Just like you took your hands off their bicycle years ago and watched them wobble toward the horizon and achieve balance. You can reach out regularly but let them set the pace of their responses – the goal is to build their confidence, not undermine it.
7. Unplug the Pressure Cooker: Don’t start discussing grades before the first day of school. Yes, by their sophomore year you will be nagging your astrophysicist about their report card but now navigating new friends, purchasing razors at the drugstore and surviving a smelly roommate obsessed with techno-pop is enough to keep them busy.
8. Listen, Don’t Preach: If your son or daughter calls home depressed and doubting and overwhelmed, let the kid vent. That’s why he is calling you – and that’s a good thing. Afterwards, he will probably feel comforted. You will be up all night. Shoot a quick “feeling better?” text the next day just to confirm the cloud has passed, then pop a Xanax.
9. Consider the Nest Half Full Not Half Empty: Don’t freak out! Remember you really do like your spouse. That’s why you married him.
10. Catch the Boomerang Babies: Remember that they are not leaving home forever. Given the economy, not only will your offspring be bunking in their old room, but their spouse and kids might one day, too.