From Full House to Empty Nest
Your “baby” is moving away for exciting times in college. Everybody is thrilled for your kid and your child is so anxious to start their independent life and you are too, of course. But deep down in your heart, there’s a deep sense of sadness and fear. This phenomenon is called “the empty nest”.
You don’t feel ready to say goodbye. It's just too painful.
The same happens when children move away from their parent’s house for job opportunities in another state or country, marriage, or just to be independent. You may be very emotional and experience mixed feelings like grief, guilt, frustration, sadness but also excitement, hope, pride, joy, and other positive feelings. You may even experience some marital problems as well.
You wonder if he/she will be able to make it on time for class because, in his high school years, you used to wake him up! You may be worried because he/she barely knows how to do the laundry or maybe you are afraid that he/she won’t get along with their roommates or classmates. You may even ask yourself if your "child" is safe! Your protective instinct never goes away.
Even though moms are usually more emotional, dads may also experience this anxiety or stress depending on how wrapped in the role of parents they are.
Now the house is quieter, his room is almost empty, even the food you buy is different because he’s not home anymore!
It is different when you are a car drive away or a plane ride away or when you have other children still staying home. It may be more severe if this is your only child. The empty nest syndrome is real but we are here to help you navigate it.
PARENTING A COLLEGE CHILD AWAY FROM HOME
Understanding that your child is ready to move away from home and that he might not need you that much anymore may be difficult to process.
You, as a parent, may feel that when your child leaves home also a part of you is leaving too; it’s your identity that goes away with him especially if your child used to fulfill all your needs. A profound sense of loss may be experienced.
Parenthood is an evolution. We need to understand that our way of parenting will change when our kid leaves home, but we will still be parenting them. This is a different phase in life for the child and his parents. You will be parenting a young adult child so there will be some learning to let them go and give up some control. This is easier said than done, though.
THE DOs AND DON’Ts OF THE EMPTY NESTERS
Stay positive. Try to stay positive about this crucial time in your child’s life so he can feel your confidence.
Take advantage of the technology. Consider using Facetime, Skype, etc. to stay in touch and see each other.
Help them move into their dorm. Of course, you may want to share the move-in day excitement with your child and help with everything but let them make the decisions on how to arrange their dorm or apartment. This is part of the new experience.
Call before visiting, don't just drop in unannounced.
Let them know you are always there for them, and help when needed. But do not assume your help is needed unless they ask you for it.
Ask for a “proof of life”: It’s good and necessary to keep in touch with our kids after they leave home and find the new groove of how much to communicate together. Give your child space to settle on his new routine.
Never visit unannounced. If you want to visit, talk to him and arrange the best time for you and him.
Never sleep in their dorm – It’ll be awkward for his roommates.
If you become emotional and cry, let them know it is because you are proud of their accomplishments and how much they have grown. Try to not push the idea that you are lonely onto your child so that they do not feel the burden of having to fix it for you. Instead, reach out to other friends that are going through the same thing or have experienced this phase before.
A NEW BEGINNING FOR YOU
You raised your child for so many years and now you are witnessing his blooming. This is your harvest time as a parent. So, embrace the moment you are living now! Try to cultivate your new or lost identity since you became a parent.
This is also a great time to try new things like such as:
Volunteering at your favorite shelter or organization.
Getting a job --if you are a homemaker
Going back to school
Restarting an old project or create a new one
Acquiring new skills for your professional growth
Catching up with friends
Reconnecting with your mate as a couple
It’s not easy to go from a full house to an empty nest but if you embrace this new phase and repurpose yourself you will see that these are exciting times for you and your romantic relationship too. Think about the extra time you are gaining to invest in your personal interests, hobbies, or the extra time you have available for your relationship, or maybe even start dating again if you were a single parent.
If you feel that your sadness is unbearable consider sharing your feelings with other parents and allow yourself to grieve. You may also want to consider having a few therapy sessions in case of depression, crying spells, insomnia, or isolation. In addition to visiting your regular doctor for a check-up of your hormone levels or overall wellness.
And finally, trust your child! Think about it, all these years, you've provided your kid the proper skills to be independent and succeed in life! So, feel confident that they will find their way and so will you. This is a time to celebrate!
Your Therapy Friend,
Sofia Robirosa is the owner of Infinite Therapeutic Services and is a Perinatal & Relationships Expert. She offers individual, couples
, and family counseling to individuals seeking to enhance their relationship with their children and significant other. Her private practice is located in Plantation, FL. She attended Nova Southeastern University for both her Bachelor and Master Degrees in Marriage and Family Therapy and in Business Administration. She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a Perinatal Mental Health Certified Professional, and a Leader in Active Parenting for children and teens. She loves her family, which consists of her husband, daughter and son, and two dogs. Some of her interests outside of work include spending time outdoors, traveling, and dining. Read more about her at: www.infinitetherapeuticservices.com and follow her on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/infinitetherapy/