Updated on September 10th, 2021
After 18 years, it’s finally happened: your child is going to college. While this is an exciting time, it can also be an anxious one, especially for parents who suddenly have an empty nest. And conflicting feelings during moments like these are common.
Let’s face it; you’re proud that your child is going to college. It’s a big step, taking years of hard work and dedication. But you may also be fearful of being lonely or seeing your purpose in life change. It’s an emotional time, but you will get through it.
To help you on your journey towards your new life (which is really an amazing opportunity!), here are some techniques to help you cope as you adjust to an empty nest after your child goes to college.
Ditch the Old Labels Once You Have an Empty Nest
For the past 18 years, you’ve been a parent, someone’s “mom” or “dad.” While that fact never really changes, it doesn’t have to be your primary identity anymore.
Instead, it’s a great time to try on new hats. Consider yourself as a “spouse,” a “friend,” and a “professional.” Maybe “world traveler” or even “student” feels like a better fit. You have an empty nest, the choices are yours, embrace it for the opportunity that it is!
You don’t have to limit yourself to just one, but do take the time to see which options resonate with you. This is a perfect time to rebrand yourself as an individual and steer your life in a direction that appeals to you the most.
If you’ve let other relationships fall to the wayside while you were raising your child, now is also a perfect time to rekindle them. Whether you and your spouse haven’t had the opportunity to connect as adults as often or your circle of friends was based entirely on sharing parenthood experience, you can work to forge stronger relationships with the other people in your life as you get used to having an empty nest.
Embrace Technology to Ease the Transition
It wasn’t that long ago that sending a kid to college meant not being able to see them very often. Now, those with an empty nest can still stay connected with their children, thanks to digital technology.
Video chat and text messaging can help fill the gaps as both you and your student get used to being separated. You can still learn about what is happening in their lives, offer comfort, and even see them regularly. Just because they aren’t living under your roof doesn’t mean the connection has to falter, so look to technology to help you both keep in touch no matter the number of miles there are between you.
However, it is vital (for both of your sakes) to not hover over everything they do. Some parents overcompensate when their child goes to college and they have an empty nest, taking on the mantle of “helicopter parent” even if that was never your style before.
It’s important to understand that your child is becoming an adult. While that isn’t always easy, and there will almost certainly be some heart-wrenching conversations as they adjust, you have to let them live their lives and gain their own footing. Being too involved won’t help you adapt to an empty nest, and may actually make it harder for you both.
Make Plans to Get Together
Just because your child has headed off to college doesn’t mean you won’t be able to get together again soon. In fact, there are a lot of opportunities for visits!
Now, don’t just fly or drive out to see them during the school year without notice and come crashing into their dorm room (that isn’t necessarily going to go over well). However, you can make plans to head over to their campus on the next “family weekend” hosted by the school. Attending an event like that can actually do a lot to put your mind at ease, as it gives you a chance to see how things are going with your child now that they have begun their college experience.
It’s also important to remember that the school year is filled with holidays. Thanksgiving, winter break, spring break, and next summer will all come along faster than you anticipate, so make plans to get together now. Anything from spending time at home to heading out to a favorite location spot together should be on the table. That way, you both have some family bonding time to look forward too, which can make it easier to adjust.
Just make sure to realize that they may want to spend some of their time off with friends, so don’t force them to fill your empty nest every time the chance arises. Instead, discuss it with them and see what options work for you and your child, and take things from there.
Host an “Empty Nest” Party
This may seem like strange advice, but throwing an “empty nest” celebration can actually be really helpful. First, it serves as a great way to recognize your transition into a new phase of life. And second, it gives you a reason to get together with other empty nesters, friends, and family members.
Yes, the transition is strange, but it is also amazing. Think about it; it’s almost like taking a step back in time. Your children aren’t at home; you day no longer has to focus on childrearing or the activities associated with managing a larger household. In some cases, you and your spouse may see an empty nest as an opportunity to feel like newlyweds again. And why not? You’ve got the house to yourselves again!
So, invite some people over, gather up some food and drink, and have a great time celebrating your new life with an empty nest!
Know Adjusting to an Empty Nest Gets Easier with Time
One of the most important things to remember when you adjust to an empty nest is that it does get easier with time. Just like any other major life transition, having your child head off to college feels odd at first. It will affect your usual patterns, and you’ll miss seeing them around.
All of this is normal, but you will get more comfortable with your empty nest.
As you grab your new life by the horns, you might find that any anxieties you may have had melt away. Plus, watching your child progress into adulthood and make it on their own is a marvelous thing to see.
Both you and your student are starting a new adventure, so it’s a time filled with excitement and possibility. Think of all of these things you will both get to experience now that you have an empty nest. A new life awaits for you both, but it’s still a journey you will always get to take together.
There is also a lot of advice out there for parents struggling with an empty nest. Some of the books listed below are filled with heart-warming, feel-good stories that can leave you inspired, while others will talk specifically to your current situation.
Check out some of these favorites books for empty-nesters below:
Chicken Soup for the Soul: Empty Nesters: 101 Stories about Surviving and Thriving When the Kids Leave Home
Empty Nest: What’s Next?: Parenting Adult Children Without Losing Your Mind
The Naked Roommate: For Parents Only: A Parent’s Guide to the New College Experience: Calling, Not Calling, Packing, Preparing, Problems, Roommates, … Matters when Your Child Goes to College
Help Them Look for Scholarships
Lastly, while your child may have taken off for college and this semester’s bill is paid, just know that applying for scholarships is still an option. And while many families want to sit back and wait until spring to think about how to pay next year’s bill, now is the time for college students to apply.
As a new empty-nester who may have some extra time on their hands now, join us for our next free webinar for parents to learn where to find hidden scholarships with less competition. We cover tons of information on how to help your child quickly find and secure scholarships. You can learn more here or go to https://thescholarshipsystem.com/freewebinar
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