Relocation Stress Syndrome and the first days at college

I have a couple of personal events taking precedent in my life this week, so rather than just shutting down the blog for a few days, please indulge me with this opportunity to share what I’m learning through these events. I think you’ll find them relevant to the mission of Etchea.


I celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary yesterday. Today we are packing up our youngest daughter to take her to college. Celebrations are all fun, but taking a child to college comes with a cocktail of emotional situations.

We all sat in Elie’s room earlier this week while she  sorted things for packing. In my curiosity I picked up a nursing book from her huge pile of textbooks.. I thumbed open a page to an article titled, “Relocation Stress Syndrome.” This syndrome has little to do with going to college, but that didn’t keep me from applying it to our situation.

Going to college is stressful. Here are some things about the first days of college that I think we can learn from the patient transfers.

  1. Relocation affects the whole person: physical, mental and emotional.
  2. Relocation makes financial issues more acute.
  3. Support systems are important for the person being relocated. Maintain contact and communication. At a time when a person needs the most support and counsel, that support is more difficult to get.
  4. Relocation leads to feelings of powerlessness.
  5. Many who are relocated become very passive.
  6. Past and current losses become more acute.
  7. The relocated person can feel that all experiences are unpredictable.

According to this text book, here are some ideas that will help alleviate relocation stress. I mention the ones that will also help a college student with their adjustment.

  1. Provide more information about the new environment.
  2. Get the person to make their own decisions about relocation. (Mom and dad, you aren’t going to college. Your child is. They can pick their own bedding, school supplies, and recreational items.)
  3. Make clear the purpose for relocation. (Some people feel obligated to go to college. Help your children understand how it fits their mid- and long-term goals.)
  4. Give the person a way to express their satisfaction with their new environment. (Parents can see their role as listening, not always fixing.)
  5. Keep connection to the family. (Thankfully, we have modern tools that can help college students be connected to their family and friends. Churches, too, need to maintain connection to their college students, especially when they’ve moved away.)

My family is working through the stress of sending our two children to college. I found these suggestions to be helpful for me to understand the issues that my girls and other young people face with this new step in their lives.