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Empty Nesting

Managing your changing relationship with your adult child

Dropping your child off at college for the first time can be a very emotional and confusing event. Not only will they be living independently, but you are also reclaiming your independence after 18 years. While this affords you lots of free time, empty nesting for the first time can accompany some unanticipated difficulty. In addition to your concern for your child’s adjustment to college; making friends, succeeding academically, and learning to care for themselves, you also have an empty bedroom, a freer social calendar, and perhaps some goals of your own.

Empty nesting can be scary, and many parents experience symptoms concurrent with grief. Like any period of change, time needs to pass to adjust to your new lifestyle. Your relationship with your child has changed, you may have a changing relationship with your partner, and your relationship to your own life may be changing as well. Feelings of sadness, worrying, and anxiety are completely normal and expected during this time.

So what can you do to help yourself?

Here are some helpful tips to manage your feelings while adjusting to your new life.

  • Make social plans- connect with other recent empty nesters for dinner or coffee. You have something new in common. Take advantage of that additional free time and re-invest in your social life.
  • Allow your child to call you when they want to talk. It may be tempting to text or call your child hourly, but they will contact you when they need you. This may be more often at first, and then taper as they adjust to college. It’s also possible that you will hear from your child more when they are struggling. Try not to panic. Instead, notice that this is your child leaning on you for support. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are miserable all the time. Try to allow them to figure out how much contact feels appropriate.
  • Connect with your partner. Now that you have an empty seat at the dinner table, you may be relying on each other more for support. You may be experiencing the empty nesting differently, and talking about it will help you through the transition. Plan a trip, try a new hobby together, redecorate your house, or just enjoy each other’s company.

The adjustment period will take time, and allowing yourself to grieve and feel your feelings is important during this change. If you find that you are struggling after several months, it may be time to seek out counseling.

Increased irritability, sadness, trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, and being unable to look forward to things you once found enjoyable, can be indicators that it’s time to seek help.

Talking to someone can be incredibly helpful to validate what you’re going through, and to help you cope with the symptoms of depression that can accompany this life transition. Remember, this can be a very exciting time.

Time to make goals for yourself, and connect with your child on a more adult level.

If you’re feeling like this adjustment is creating stress and anxiety that feels unmanageable, call us at 217.203.2008 to schedule an appointment.

Resources

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/empty-nest-syndrome/art-20047165

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/conditions/empty-nest-syndrome