Fear the empty nest? Wondering what college orientation means for parents?
Summer vacation draws to a close as new or returning college students begin packing in a frenzy. Most college students will be highly excited about attending college, this is a huge step towards adulthood. But to many parents, this is the time they have always dreaded, the onset of the empty nest. While a host of parents will be looking forward to some quality ‘me’ time, a major percentage of parents will find this a very trying time. Letting go is often easier said than done, it is rather difficult to acknowledge that your child will longer be solely dependent on you. A plethora of parents fear the empty nest, the unknown. By knowing what to expect, how the emotions may change and how to adapt to the empty nest, one will alleviate the stress and the negative emotions.
What to expect
After caring for a child for so long, it is very hard to step back and allow them to stretch their wings. This is not an option, clingy parents do nothing for their child’s self-esteem. You can’t be in charge of the child for ever. When you fail to step back, young adults tend to interpret this as a lack of confidence in them. You will be upset that your child is no longer living at home, you may even have a little cry to yourself. This is normal, your arms will feel a little empty now. You will no doubt feel a little lost, and this is why you need to get involved in something other than the housework. You and your spouse could also experience a little unrest within your relationship as well. This is not unusual as both of you will miss your child, there is no doubt of that. You both need to give yourself a little time to come to terms with things.
Look at this as a time of serenity
Raising children is not all clear sailing, it’s a hard job and comes a time when parents earn the right to enjoy their lives doing what they wish to do. Many years have been filled to the very brim with putting your children first. Now it’s time to spoil yourself, chase those dreams and do what you’ve always wished to do. Stop and smell the roses, enjoy the serenity, sign up for a course, take a vacation. Husbands and wives will now have more time for each other, so take the opportunity to enjoy more quality time together. Sit back and enjoy the silence, sing the songs you like to hear. Ah no more loudspeakers. This isn’t so bad after all is it?
Acknowledge your emotions
You will definitely miss your child so allow yourself time to deal with your emotions. Don’t push it to the side, face it head on. Discuss how you feel with your spouse and try to think positively. You have not lost a child, they are simply preparing themselves for adulthood, nothing more, nothing less. Get rid of the negative thoughts and mentally envision your child with a successful future. Every time the negatives start knocking at your mind, try to balance these with positive thoughts. Very soon the positive thoughts will far outweigh those negative ones.
Schedule regular phone calls, emails, etc.
Keeping in contact with your children is imperative so arrange contact on a regular basis. But don’t overdo it, allow your child/children to spread their wings a little. Don’t make them too dependent on you or they will struggle with college. Chat with them via the computer at least once a week at a predetermined time. Send emails, leave a message on their cell phone. Tell your child you expect at least one phone call a week. But don’t panic if they’re not punctual they could be making a host of friends and get caught up with the excitement of it all. Calling them and berating them for not being punctual could make them feel immature and highly embarrassed. Let go of those aprons strings, they can’t stay tied forever.
Take an interest in your child’s college activities
No child wishes to feel as if they have a light bulb swinging above their heads. So don’t make them feel as if you’d like to bug their dorm room and load it with security cameras. Be curious about what they’re doing at college but don’t question their every move, their choice in friends, etc. They don’t wish to feel as if they are being interrogated by the Gestapo. Now is the time that you must put into practice, the trust you kept ensuring your children you have in them. Don’t hit your child with a plethora of verbal questionnaires as soon as you phone them. Allow them to do the most talking. When they are allowed to lead the discussions, they appreciate the fact that they are being treated like adults not little kids.
Urge your child to stand on their own two feet
If your child calls telling you they have problems with teachers, can’t get along with their roommate, don’t feel as if they fit in, etc., don’t rush in to do battle. Urge them to stand on their own two feet. Often times, college students feel a little insecure in the first weeks, but this soon changes once they begin to make friends, etc. If you keep going in to do battle for them every time they have a problem, your child will never learn to stand on their own two feet. Listen to your child’s problems, give the best advise you can but encourage him/her to try to sort it out for themselves. And don’t meddle even if you don’t like the latest boyfriend/girlfriend, hairstyle, taste in music and so forth.
Use your time constructively, and you won’t have time feel sad. Sign up for art classes, go to the gym, get some guitar lessons, learn how to dance, the sky’s the limit. Pamper yourself and take yourself off for a vacation. Become a volunteer for a charitable organization. If you have a talent such as singing, dancing, quilting, sewing, etc., start up some home classes and make a little extra cash while keeping yourself busy.
Author’s Note: Keep the lines of communication open. Just don’t be overbearing or your child could end up resenting it. Send a postcard, write a letter once a week, send a text message but get on with enjoying your life. Loving children is knowing how to let go lovingly.