Parents Can Adapt, Thrive After 'Empty Nest'
The parent-child relationship evolves, but doesn't end when kids leave for college, expert explains
SUNDAY, Aug. 12, 2012 (HealthDay News) -- When their last or only child leaves for college, parents may have a difficult time adapting to the "empty nest" and their newfound freedom.
There are, however, many things parents can do to have an easier time with the transition, says University of Indianapolis psychologist Kelly Miller.
One way to overcome the normal feelings of loss, especially in the first few weeks, is to have dinner or movie nights with friends, take classes or get back into hobbies that had been put aside during the child-rearing years. This is also a good time for partners to get reacquainted, Miller said in a university news release.
Parents need to remember that their relationship with their child isn't coming to an end. They can continue to be an important source of support and wisdom in decision-making as their kids develop their adult identities and deal with new issues, Miller said.
Don't make any immediate major lifestyle changes, such as selling the family home or going for a long cruise, she suggested. Both parents and children need some sense of stability at this time.
It's also a good idea to delay renovating the child's room. Even independent young adults appreciate familiar surroundings when they feel lonely or homesick.
Although it is important to preserve meaningful family traditions and rituals, parents should be open to creating new ones as they develop new adult relationships with their children.
Parents might also find it helpful to seek out other empty nesters or friends who they can talk to about their feelings. They also can take advantage of resources such as books and websites to help them cope.
Most importantly, empty nesters should expect both good and bad experiences and learn to roll with them. A great way to manage unexpected events is to keep a sense of humor and stay flexible. Changing your perspective from "loss" to "opportunity" will help you, Miller said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers resources about health and safety for college students.