Empty Nest: What to Expect

The end of summer seems a world away at this point.  The list of things to buy, the decisions about what to take and what to leave behind and the anxiety of move-in day are all part of the transition to college. So many parents have gone through this experience, but for each family it symbolizes a permanent change in their family dynamics.  The teen begins the process of becoming a young adult.  This is the time when they will become more and more their own person and establish a life of their own.

As the parents of the college-bound teen, the past year or so has probably been filled with questions about applications, college visits, financial aid and essays.  You may have only been involved a little bit or a lot, but you were aware that your son or daughter was on their way out to start their lives

For some parents, the process of helping their son or daughter move towards this major milestone was filled with lots of struggles and challenges.  The teen may have been reluctant or downright resistant to the process and yet voice that they can’t wait to move on.  Maybe it felt like YOU were more interested in getting this off the ground than they were.  When the final day came and you took them to school and moved them into their dorm, you may have felt a sense of relief

For other parents, the process felt more like it flowed naturally from the years before it. The teen may have been focused on going to a school where they have friends or they may strongly identify with a school and it seems things just fell into place.   When the final day comes for them to wave good-bye from the steps of their dorm, there may be a sense of loss or grief.  It may feel as though they have taken charge of their life and they are pulling away from you.

Whether you were nudging and reminding or just listening and encouraging, the feelings of grief (loss) or relief are normal.  Initially, there was so much going on you may not have had time to feel much of anything.  But, as the semester goes on and there are fewer “homesick” phone calls, the feeling of relief and loss can get stronger.  Accept your feeling as normal and let yourself relax for a while.  You don’t need to figure out whether their transition will be smooth or rocky right now.  Finding yourself with an “empty nest” does not have to be overwhelming.  Take it a little at a time and understand it is part of a process that will work out.   

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