It’s a scene that plays out every year across the country: parents dropping their kids off at colleges and universities for their freshman year. And that means many parents are now dealing with empty nests for the first time. So what’s the best way to manage this transition as a parent? Dr. Ari Zaretsky, psychiatrist-in-chief at Sunnybrook, shared five points with us to help navigate the change.
Realize there are benefits
Any big life change can evoke a flurry of emotions. But research now shows that the switch to the empty nest is a far more positive change for parents than it is negative. In particular, relationships with significant others appears to improve when children move out due to more quality time spent together. Having the freedom to focus on that relationship appears to deepen bonds and make many couples happier.
This stage of life is the perfect time to dive into interests and activities you may not have had time for. Whether it’s trying a new sport, learning a new language or travelling, explore new things that fulfill your interests. Staying socially engaged though club or groups can help counter feelings of loneliness and isolation. And giving back to the community through various volunteer opportunities is an incredible way to boost your happiness and self confidence, all while learning new skills.
Avoid helicopter parenting
While it can be difficult to see your children go away to school, remember that this step is an important one in their development and move towards independence. Technologies make it easier than ever to stay in touch, but don’t overdo it. Establish a mutually agreeable time frame for checking in, and remember to give your kids the time and space to adjust to their new situation.
Talk to others
You are not alone in this important life transition! It might help to talk to other parents on how they are feeling and managing through the change.
Consider the boomerang
Because of pressures in the job market, expensive real estate and the high cost of living, many children move back home after school before eventually moving out a second time. This increasingly common scenario means that it might not be as much of a “goodbye” as a “see you soon.” Don’t get too sad because your kids may end up back in their old bedrooms quicker than you think!