Updated: Jan 31, 2023
Your baby is all grown up and ready for college. As a parent, it's bittersweet. On the one hand, you're proud of the young adult you raised and excited for the next chapter in their life. On the other hand, you could be feeling nervous about being kid-free.
Here are few tips that should help as you're coping with an empty nest when your college-bound student heads to campus.
According to the Mayo Clinic, it's not a clinical diagnosis, but it is the very real feeling of sadness and even grief parents sometimes experience when their only or last child leaves home. Going into the transition with the understanding that it will be an emotionally bumpy time for all can help you prepare to ride the highs and lows. There is nothing abnormal about having conflicting feelings about your child leaving the nest. You may feel sad, nostalgic, excited, nervous, and hopeful—all at the same time.
You know all of that "you" time you've sacrificed over the years? Now is your time to reclaim it. Raise your hand for a volunteer project that excites you, take a painting class, and train for a 5K race—you know, those so-called bucket list items you've been putting aside.
Coping with your empty nest could mean embracing it. You and your partner or spouse have weathered the ups and downs of parenting together for many years, and now it's time for the two of you. Relish this new phase of your relationship, and enjoy doing things as a couple again like planning a vacation or weekend getaway, setting up regular date nights, tackling home projects, or getting together with friends.
You should resist the urge to just show up at your child's dorm room unannounced, but take advantage of college family weekends or other events. These are as much designed for you as they are for your student. Schools understand that the college transition is a family affair, and they do all they can to help everyone adjust. Family visits offer a fun way to get together at your child's home away from home so you can get a glimpse into their new world.
If your child will be returning home on weekends or longer school breaks, you should expect some push back regarding curfews or other pre-college routines. Once your child has been on their own for some time it will create a new dynamic since they will feel like an adult and will want to be treated as such. Along with that will be your own set of expectations for your child to carry their own weight like not rely on you to do their laundry. These are things that you should work out together so that visits can remain tension-free.
Even with knowing what empty nest syndrome is and ways to cope with it, your empty home might seem surreal at first. Remember that you aren't alone and this is just another one of those parenting milestones that many families go through. Just as you survived the others, you will likely come to accept—and possibly enjoy—your empty nest.