Parent College Coach Tip #16: Don’t Fear the Empty Nest
It’s that time of year again: parents face the inevitable reality of the empty nest. You realize the baby boy or girl you brought home from the hospital is now preparing to go to college. Watching your child, whom you’ve loved and guarded for the last 18 years, walk across that stage on graduation day is bound to evoke emotion.
Although you always knew that this day would come, there is a part of you that is also dreading it. Your child is leaving home and four years of college will result in them returning to you as an adult, and hopefully with a new career and new life. It’s normal for parents to experience these feelings and so while it’s nothing to panic over (or feel embarrassed about), I do have some tips that will help you to cope with the transition:
Embrace the empty nest.
Sometimes, the hardest part of change is simply accepting it. The moment that you make the decision to embrace this new season as a part of the parenting process, it will help you to feel calmer so that you can make the necessary adjustments.
It is a wise person who once said that when you lose something, you need to quickly replace the void. When it comes to your child, you will always have them as a part of your life, but the time that was once devoted to their needs, because they will be at school, is now freed up. Therefore, use this as an opportunity to join an exercise class, take up a new hobby or make plans with your friends. Staring at your phone, waiting on your child to call or text you is only going to make things that much more difficult. Use it to contact some girlfriends instead.
Look forward to seeing them again.
Make it a priority to attend parent’s weekend and look forward to the first break at Thanksgiving. Don’t drop in on them unannounced or call them and text them 25 times a day to see how they are doing. They need time to adjust and so do you. You will be amazed how quickly the time will pass.
Pat yourself on the back.
When a child goes away to college, sometimes so much focus is on how hard it is emotionally that parents forget to bask in the accomplishment. Not only did their child graduate from high school, but they did well enough to be accepted into a college that can prepare them for their career. So, as you’re wiping away some of the tears that will come from missing them, make sure to pat yourself on the back for a job well done.
Parenting is loaded with landmarks and accomplishments: their first step, their first word, their first day of school, and their high school graduation. Look at college as another of those landmarks and it will help you see there are always more to follow.