The day has come when you say “Goodbye” to your freshman college student.   Letting go is hard for both parents and child.  It is a moment of nervous excitement, bittersweet as well as anxiety provoking.   Your child no longer needs you in quite the same way.    It is a new chapter, a passage for parents, student and siblings.   The family as a unit has changed.   Your purpose as a parent takes on new meaning.  New horizons beckon for your child, for you and others in your family .

If it is the oldest child leaving for college, the relationship between siblings and parents will shift.  Younger children will look up to their older brother or sister in a new and different way.   Siblings will view them lucky to live without rules, not having to answer to anyone, having more freedom.  Siblings will also struggle with the loss of having an older sibling, once readily available, to give advice, protect and teach.   Parents will also feel the loss.   Perhaps an eldest has helped in relieving parents of certain responsibilities such as greeting a younger child at the end of the day when a parent is stuck at work or driving other children to after school activities.   Siblings will climb a rung on the family ladder reminding parents that they will soon follow suit, eventually leaving parents as they began, as a couple.   For single parents, this loss can be particularly poignant.  The stress of living alone, losing your companion, a trusted individual can create feelings of grief.

For parents sending their youngest or only child off to college spark different issues.   Couples might stare at one another, wondering what happened during the last 18 years… could so much time go by in, what feels like a heartbeat?  Who is this person I’ve been living with, do I still like him or her, can we rekindle what once was?   For couples, now considered “empty nesters”,  the sense of loss can be profound.   Some couples who have been on the brink of divorce might decide that this is the moment to end the marriage further complicating their loss.   Other couples may relish in the idea of planning couple activities and pursuing dreams put on hold while raising their family.

Whatever your circumstance,  sending a child off to college is life changing.   Thinking of this transition as a gain rather than a loss can help in coping with saying “Goodbye”.   You have accomplished what most parents dream….completing your role in developing and nurturing a baby into a young adult who will begin his or her own journey in self – reliance, independence and goal achievement.

Congratulations…..this is a new and exciting time for all!

Susan M. Isaacson is a well-respected psychotherapist in Warwick, New York. For more information about her practice, visit her web site @
Contact: Susan M. Isaacson – 845-986-5191
Twitter: @susanisaacson