COPING WITH AN “EMPTY NEST”
November 12, 2014 in Parenting

By Dr. Jill Langer

You’ve spent years preparing for this moment: Your child is going away tocollege. Congratulations on a job well done! This transition often comes withmany mixed feelings for both you and your child.

Some Normal FeelingsYou Might Have:

Anxiety and worry: Youchild is leaving the safety of home for the first time and it is instinctualthat you feel compelled to protect them from all that could go wrong.

Loss: You may feel griefand loss as your child moves on to this new phase in their lives. You mayquestion if you will be able to maintain a close relationship with your child asshe or he becomes an independent adult.

Confusion: It can be hardto know how and in what ways you are supposed to continue being a mother asyour child becomes an adult.

Pride and joy: It isappropriate to feel pleased with yourself and your child for reaching thismilestone. You both know it wasn’t always easy and both of your deserve somecredit!

Your New (andImportant) Role to Play:

At first, it may feel like you are not needed as you alwayshave been. The truth is, you are just as needed now but in different ways. Thetransition from living under your roof to college and independent livingrequires that you to adopt a stance that provides support and empowerment whileallowing your child to create a sense of competence as they begin to takeresponsibility for aspects of their lives that you previously took care of.It’s important that you shift your level of involvement in your child’s life toallow them develop and master a sense of independence.

Remember when you left your parents’ home yourself. Considerhow important it was for you to prove you could make it on your own, even ifthat meant making mistakes along the way. Mistakes are life’s best teachers andit is vital that you allow your child to make them.

Do your best to adopt a supportive rather than protectivestance. This means that your child knows you are there if they need you, butthat you will not be doing for them what they need to learn to do forthemselves.

Offer yourself as a valuable resource for big decisions suchas choosing a career, a mate, and learning to manage their finances.  Allowing your child to seek you out as neededwill, in time, prove to be a strategy that benefits you both.

While watching your child establish their own lives canbring up difficult emotions for you, it is crucial that you find ways to managethese in healthy ways so you do not burden your daughter or son with them. Conveyingthat your daughter or son is in some way hurting you by growing up and movingon will interfere with their own healthy development. Please do considerseeking counseling should you want or need help processing and coping withthese feelings.

Additional Resources:

http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/aging/empty-nest/stages-of-empty-nest-syndrome.htm