Kimberly Brenner, LCS, BCD

Have you ever watched your child head off to school or college and you were left behind in a pile of tears and fears? Well, you’re not alone. Thousands of men and women lose their full-time parenting job each new school year. Going from working as a chauffeur, chef, housekeeper, shopper to sitting home with hardly anything to do. Many dream of that day when their kids are out of the house, but never expecting to feel so empty when they did.  That attachment to our children is real. We need them as much as they need us and saying good-bye to them as they head off to school can be gut-wrenching. Well, you’re not crazy and you are not alone, you might be experiencing separation anxiety and it’s a real condition. Measure your level of anxiety and get treatment before it gets out of control. Here is what The American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic manual for mental health conditions, the DSM-5, defines separation anxiety as when a person has several of the following symptoms:

  • unusual distress about being separated from a person or pet
  • excessive worry that another person will be harmed if they leave them alone
  • heightened fear of being alone
  • physical symptoms when they know they will be separated from another person soon
  • excessive worry surrounding being alone
  • needing to know where a spouse or loved one is at all times

These symptoms can last for 6 months or more in adults. These symptoms can cause significant distress that affects social, occupational, or academic functioning. When this occurs over a prolong period seek professional help. It’s a serious condition and if left untreated it can become chronic.

If the condition is more manageable and you are looking for ways to get through it faster, then consider the following ideas.

  • Tell yourself feelings change, and this is only temporary
  • Return to activities you enjoy and do a lot of self-care
  • Remind those around you and yourself that you’re not crazy and that you’ll get over it in your own time
  • Try not to tell your child that you miss them, rather tell them how proud you are of them
  • Set limits on contacting your child so that you give them the space to grow up

Remember worrying about him or her sends the message that you don’t think they can handle it. And you never want your kid to worry about you not being able to handle your empty nest.

*Kimberly Brenner LCS, BCD is in private practice as a relationship coach.