When I read Donna’s “Niagra Falls” post, it reminded me of the day my parents dropped me off at college. I am the youngest in the family, and the only girl. For both my parents, they admittedly found it hardest to let go of their “last” child, and to leave a girl alone on a college campus surrounded by college boys.
Unlike Donna, my parents’ tears were not finished when they got to the car. It took them the better part of a year to navigate being “empty nesters.” There were a lot of individual adjustments to make as relationships changed. If you’re in the same boat, know that there are a few things you can do to help yourself adjust.
- Recognize that parenthood is an evolution. It changes constantly, but it never goes away. Your new parenting role involves helping your child make big decisions about things like careers and significant others. You don’t stop being a parents, you just change phases.
- Don’t focus on the fact that your child is moving away. Focus on the fact that your child is moving toward his or her own life. Be proud that as a parent, you contributed to all this growth!
- Fall in love all over again. If you have a significant other, one large adjustment in the empty nest phase can be getting used to being “just the two of you” again. View this as a time to rediscover each other. Go on a date, take the time to hear about each other’s days, or just enjoy watching the six o’clock news uninterrupted!
- Get involved. If you find yourself twiddling your thumbs now that your kiddos are all gone, consider doing something you’ve always wanted to do. Take up a hobby, volunteer your time, or even get that storage room in the basement sorted out. Do something that will make you feel good about the way you’re spending your extra time.
Are there any empty nesters out there with advice of their own? – Molly Luchtel
“My daughter is going off to college or to live on her own.” These are such simple words to evoke the powerful emotions that often accompany them. Molly talked about how you can help your child adjust to her new world. I want to look at this issue from the other perspective and focus on your feelings as a parent.
I thought I was prepared when we took our first daughter to college. She was a mature young lady and ready for the adventure. We were thrilled for her, and even a little envious. So on a beautiful August morning we packed her up and headed off. Upon arrival we helped carry all the “stuff” to the dorm room, gave her last minute advice, and turned to leave. Yep, you guessed it; I didn’t make it out the door before the tears started. Other parents in the hall might have thought they were taking a ride on the Maiden of the Mist at Niagara Falls if they hadn’t been similarly occupied.
When a child leaves home, it can be traumatic for any parent. You are now experiencing another stage of parenthood called departure. It’s natural for you to spend time thinking about whether you’ve achieved the relationship you want with your now adult child. You may run that little video in your head over and over playing the story of your child’s life. All this is normal.
With the smiles and joys of remembering the wonderful years, will come the sadness of knowing things will never be quite the same. Share your feelings of sadness and loss with other adults. It is better to do so now then bottle up the feelings and try to deny their existence. Then you can focus on readapting identities and looking forward to new opportunities.
As for me, the tears stopped by the time my husband and I got to the car. Then we took off for a wonderful vacation where we celebrated the launching of the first child from our home. As the weeks and months went by, we all began to adjust to the shifts in our relationship. Let me tell you the rest of the story; the young woman we took to college all those years ago will celebrate her 45th birthday this month. You need not worry – you will always have a role as a parent. It just keeps changing with each stage of life.
It’s already nearing that time of year, when your child will leave the nest for the first time, and embark on a new journey. Heading off to college for the first time is incredibly exciting, and incredibly nerve-racking, for both children and parents. It is a huge change for everyone involved, and it requires careful preparation and navigation.
The University of Southern Florida came out with a great list of “Helpful Tips for Parents of College Students.” You can read the entire list by clicking on the link, but I wanted to highlight just a few tips that, as a recent college student, my friends and/or I found to be crucial.
- Come up with a communication plan. I can’t emphasize enough how important this is. Each relationship is different, and each person has different expectations. Before your child sets foot on a college campus, come up with a communication plan (phone, email, text) that you all can live with.
- Do not worry excessively about the “down in the dumps” communications. As a college freshman, lots of things are changing, and change can be difficult. Know that with new friends and new relationships at school, your child will likely turn to you at home for any “venting.” Be patient with these communications, and work to stay cool. Know that just by listening, your are a tremendous help to your child.
- Care packages go a long way. Students love to know that you’re thinking of them, and especially love to get a batch of mom’s homemade cookies that they’ve missed so much! 🙂
What questions are on your mind as you prepare your child for his/her college adventure?
– Molly Luchtel, guest blogger