For years and years kids have been going off to college. Other than when I did it in the Dark Ages, I hadn’t paid much attention to this annual send-off. Two years ago several of my closest friends were packing up their oldest kids for college. I sat on the sidelines taking notes and preparing for our turn. Last year we successfully sent Kid #1 off for his freshman year. I thought it would be easier this year, but on Saturday as he
sprinted headed back to school I felt sad and heavy and was/am really missing that kid (despite his shenanigans).
It is weird how my home life so often mimics my work life. On Monday a wonderful client literally went from his last therapy session back to his university. On Tuesday, a lovely young woman with whom I have been working since December came for her final session before heading off for her freshman year. As their therapist I bid them off with congratulations for doing such great work in therapy and thrilled for what lay in store for their coming year. As a mom, I felt that pang, thinking about their moms and knowing the hole that they leave behind.
With both of these clients (and always when a client is terminating therapy) I review what they will take with them in their ‘metaphorical’ tool box. We discuss what issues have been discussed, how they have been resolved and what to do if the struggles were to return. I told each of these kids that if they feel a “ripple” of an issue that they can contact me. I told them that they don’t have to ‘wait it out’ or let it get too big. In the same breath, I reassured them that it is completely normal to have a “bad day” or some “stress”. All of us humans have bad days followed, hopefully, by better ones. Mixed messages? Perhaps. But, I want them to have permission to both sit with a bad day, but not become overwhelmed if the bad day turns into old fears or anxieties.
I remember when touring colleges with Kid #1 (much to his dismay), I had several questions when the perky tour leaders pointed out the counseling center. I am so pleased that colleges are supportive of their students’ mental health. Sometimes I will do Skype therapy sessions with a client that has gone to college and other times they will contact a local therapist in the area or go through the college counseling center. It depends on the situation and the specific client; but I am always in contact with the treating therapist to assure that these kids are getting their needs met.
To the new freshman class and their parents, I wish you a great year. To all those returning students and their families, same to you. Kids – have fun, BE SAFE and don’t forget to call home.