There are so many milestones in any parent’s life. Your baby’s first steps, their first words, the first day of school, and their first girlfriend. But there are few occasions more momentous than the day you send your adult child off to college.
You will probably be feeling very bittersweet about it. You are delighted that they are on track to succeed in life and learning to become an independent adult. They will make lifelong friends, learn about the world, and finally discover who they really are. But on the other hand, you may be feeling a great deal of sadness that they are leaving home. You will no longer be able to see them every day and cook them dinner each night. They may be living hundreds of miles across the country and can’t come to you if they need help. And with everything going on in the world right now, it may be harder than ever before. Student life in a pandemic can’t be easy, and you are understandably concerned for their wellbeing.
Many parents in this situation struggle with empty nest syndrome – the feelings of sadness and loss when a child leaves home. It can be debilitating and if you don’t take good care of your mental health it could lead to more serious depression. But going off to college is a normal part of life and you can’t expect your kid to live with you forever. It’s important that you learn how to cope with your new circumstances and find ways to move on. Learn to view it as an opportunity rather than a tragedy.
To help you make the most of your new life situation and look after yourself, here are five tips for coping when your child goes off to college.
Accept your feelings
There’s nothing wrong with feeling emotional about your child leaving. It’s a big change and it will take time to cope with it. You must remember not to be too hard on yourself. Give yourself time to feel sad and let it all out. Talk to your partner or close friends about how you’re feeling, and they may be able to offer you sound advice or a new way of looking at the situation. Make sure to take some time for yourself and indulge in some self-care. Do something that makes you feel good, whether it’s going for a long walk, taking a hot bath, or pampering yourself.
Keep in touch
It’s important to keep things in perspective and remember that your son or daughter is not gone for good. They’re living in another place but they will be back home to visit soon enough. In the meantime, there is nothing to stop you from picking up the phone and checking in. There is a good chance your child may be feeling homesick too, so they will welcome a call from their loving parents. Occasional communication will help you feel less distant from your child and feel less like you’ve lost a part of your life.
Give them space
Although communication is important, you should be careful not to be too overbearing. Your child will be enjoying student life and will be going out most nights, making friends, and maybe even fitting in a bit of studying too. If you are calling them every single night and messaging them constantly, they won’t get to feel like an independent adult and you’ll be getting in the way of their new life. A better solution is to arrange a regular time for a catch-up call, maybe once or twice a week.
Reconnect with your partner
One of the benefits of an empty nest is that you get to spend a lot more time with your partner. Since your child or children were born, your life has probably been taken over by parenting responsibilities. As a result, you may have neglected to make time for each other. Use this opportunity to rekindle your relationship and rediscover what attracted you both in the first place. Cook dinner together, go out for romantic meals, travel, or start a new hobby.
Find a new focus
If you’re feeling down, it may be that a big part of your life is missing. You no longer have a child at home to provide and care for. As a result, you may feel like you’re at a loose end. Find a new focus to fill this gap in your life and give you something meaningful to focus on. Start a new project, join a club, or train for a marathon. The choice is yours.