Dear Charise – My Daughter is Off to College

“Dear Charise” is BACK!!!!

I have to apologize because I actually have been receiving “Dear Charise” emails, but I simply have not been able to filter through some of them to answer. I am back and have actually received this particular question several times throughout this past month and thought it would be appropriate to address.

Dear Charise,

My daughter is leaving for college in a few weeks and all she has done this entire summer is hang out with her friends. It makes me sad and disappointed that she is not even thinking about spending more time with her siblings, my husband, and myself. I have attempted to address it with her only to receive the response of an eye-roll or “I had dinner with you guys yesterday….” Doesn’t she know how much we will miss her and that she may not even be life-long friends with these high school classmates next year?

Sad Mother

Dear Sad Mother,

I am not looking forward to the day I have to experience this. Unfortunately, my work has consisted of this exact situation where parents and teens are coming in to see me to prepare for the adjustments of college life and EVERY parent has complained of their teens not wanting to be home with them.

First off, let’s remember what it was like when we were in high school. Our friends were our everything. They get us! They get our struggles, they get our humor, and they get that everyone is trying to not feel nervous about leaving our bubble to become adults, so let’s simply hang out and act like KIDS! Let’s also look at our teens as though their adulthood is pending and in actuality, they are regressing. Do you remember when your children were toddlers and they were experimenting with their independence? They would walk or run away from you and yet, the moment they couldn’t see you, they would panic a little and run to look for you. They also would become bored very easily and when you were around they were constantly asking you to do something, “Mommy, can you read to me? Mommy, can you color with me? Mommy, can we bake something together? Mommy, let’s play dress up!” Sad Mother, you are back in that exact place only with an 18 year old. Your child is now more aware of their nerves, feelings of doubt and fear, feelings of uncertainty with independence, and all the feelings that come with change. They want to believe they can do it, but they are now grown and feel that they cannot break down. Rather, they need to prove they can walk. That they can walk into college life and hopefully, run. However, when sh*t hits the fan in several directions their freshman year and the first sign of not being able to adjust without a roller coaster of emotions pounding their face into the ground, they will still want the reassurance that they can look up and find you. Believe me, I see it every year! With that being said, it is not that they do not want to hang out with you and the rest of the family. They want to be with their friends who are experiencing the same needs and angst as they are. Remember when you had your first child and all you wanted to do was associate with other mothers who were experiencing the same life of motherhood struggles as you? This is what your daughter is doing. She doesn’t care that she may not still be friends with these same group of friends the following year. Believe it or not, your daughter is fully aware of that reality. But, what she is doing with her friends is something. They are hanging out. I hear parents, as my parents once did, say, “Can’t you just stay home?” And, DO what? I remember being home simply because my parents wanted me home and yet, all I did was lay on my bed in my room, by myself. This is the exact same response I get from my teenagers today, “I’m home, but I’m not doing anything and it’s not like my parents are hanging out with me.” Just like when they were little and they would ask you to do their hair, read to them, or simply play with them; the same holds true now. If you want them to be around, then DO something with them. They do not understand that all you desire is their presence. They want to hang out with you and maybe go out to the mall, the beach, vacation. Maybe you can shop together for dorm necessities or grab coffee together. Get your nails or hair done together. Watch a baseball game together. The fact is – at this point in her life, simply laying on the couch in the same room with you is not quality time. It isn’t quality time with your husband if he did the same thing, would it? Then, it isn’t with her either. If you are going to ask her to not hang out with her friends, then just tell her you want to hang out with her and ask her to plan something that she would enjoy doing with you. Believe it or not, last week I had two teenage girls that chose to stay home with their mothers and bake or play a board game when their mothers asked them what they would like to do with the family.

I encourage you to take the short amount of time you have left and separate your feelings so that you are not personalizing your daughter’s behaviors and just ask her, “Can you please spend some time hanging out with me?”

Good luck and hang in there, soon-to-not-be-Sad Mother. 



Charise Casiano

About Charise Casiano

Charise obtained her BA degree at California State University, Stanislaus and immediately pursued her MS degree at Mount Saint Mary’s College. During her college years, Charise left for one year to do missionary work. She traveled the United States troubleshooting with teenagers.