Parents all over the country are doing it right now, sending their children off to college. An empty house can mean lots of free time but it can also be a very difficult time for parents.
Many parents experience “empty nest syndrome” which is characterized by feelings of sadness, grief, or anxiety; periods of crying spells and spending time in the child’s room to feel closer to them. This can be a very tough time. But there are some simple actions you can take to make the transition smoother. There are two areas to focus on- your personal needs and your relationship with your child. Let’s start wit personal needs.
First - keep yourself busy each day- I know we all know this but you need to go beyond thinking about it. Build in some structure into your day. A daily walk, a weekly lunch with friends or your significant other, a movie night.
Next- revisit all the things you thought about doing over the years but never got around to. So, household projects, a new career, volunteering, spending time with your friends. Make a list of everything you might want to do.
Finally, get support from others. Talk to your significant other about your feelings and share your feelings with friends. Many of your friends may be in the exact position as you are.
Now, the relationship with your child. Their leaving home doesn’t mean the end of your relationship, but it does mean some changes. Three tips to help you and your child.
First- suggest a weekly chat on the phone with your child. It’s important to suggest, not demand. Try making it easy for your child by purchasing some prepaid calling cards.
Next- send your child brief e-mails updating them on events at home. Letter writing is fine, but remember, your child grew up on email and you’re more likely to get a quick response from an email.
Finally, go ahead and make the care packages. Groceries, towels, pictures of events at home, and don’t forget the cookies. Most children on their own for the first time will really welcome a touch of home.
The key here is not to overdo it early on. Listen to your child, if they are receptive to these actions then move forward. If they want a little less then build gradually.
As tough as this time may feel, most people get through it and move on to the next phase of their lives. However, it is important to pay attention to your feelings. If you find yourself crying excessively or are so sad that you don't want to see friends or go to work, then you need to contact your physician or a mental health professional.