Sent Off the Kids to College? Here’s Your Empty Nesters Survival Kit

How to get over the empty chairs at the dinner table.

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As we enter our fourth year of college, I am reminded of the first days that we sent off our college students.  The drop off was fun and exciting, getting the dorm all nice, comfy and matching, filling up the drawers with snacks, cases of water and plenty of “TP”.  But, I will never forget the drive home, I felt as if I had literally left a body part behind.  Coming home to the empty room and walking past it was very tough.  But, we have survived.  Since I have experience in this department, I thought I’d write up some tips for those parents that are experiencing the Empty Nest Syndrome, because believe me, it is real.  Read till the end of this post, and find a very nice reward for yourself as well.

How to survive the Empty Nest Syndrome

Empty nest syndrome is a feeling of grief and loneliness parents may feel when their children leave home for the first time, such as to live on their own or to attend a college or university. It is not a clinical condition.

Since young adults moving out from their families house is generally a normal and healthy event, the symptoms of empty nest syndrome often go unrecognized. 

We have looked after them for 18 years through the good times and the bad. As a teacher, mentor, confidant, taxi service, chief cook, there’s a strange stillness around the home once they fly their nest.

Yes, you will miss them, but university semesters are short and the holidays are long so, you can get the best of both worlds. There’s more time to spend on yourself, your partner and friends and, before long, the kids are back for Thanksgiving or Christmas as young adults with a new appreciation of the comforts of home.

Though in rare cases it could lead to depression or marital conflict, “empty nest syndrome”, the sense of loss which most parents feel, is normal. But it’s a chance to see more of friends, make more friends and take up new interests or challenges at work.

Here are some tips from a parent that is going in to year four of college;

Make plans to see your teen 

Get the calendar and plan the year, their first break is Thanksgiving, so expect them home for those 5 days in November.

Follow your teens lead

Some kids love to call home, others don’t want to talk in front of their roommates.  Arrange weekly check ins, twice a week will work and expect an ear full of the weeks activities, friends made, teachers expectations, campus activities.

Create a family group chat

If you don’t already have one, create a family group chat where you can keep the entire family in one conversation so this way everyone hears the same story at the same time. It’s a great way to keep the family connected.

Care packages will make them miss you more

Amazon will love you the 4 years your kids are in college, sending care packages are a great way to send them an I Love You.

Make the most of this new chapter in your life

Ever wanted to take salsa lessons, but couldn’t because you were to bust playing Uber? Reconnect with long lost friends and take the lessons you’ve been wanting to take. Start new routines. We started taking Salsa dance lessons, The Yelp app is a good app to use when looking for dance classes, or any type of class you have been interested in looking up.

Create new weekend routines

Gone are the Soccer Mom weekends. I recall crying like a little girl on that last Soccer game my Son had after attending over 13 years of Soccer games.  Now, I look forward to Farmers Markets, or early Saturday breakfast at my mom’s in the hood, Menudo with mom is a new tradition.

Here are some tips on getting through the empty nest syndrome,

Reward the kids and yourself

One of the best choices we did while our kids went to college was encourage a Study Abroad program. Encourage your student to visit the study abroad offices on campus.  Most program fees are apples to apples, the tuition that you pay for your college, covers the program on the other side.  Then, as a reward to yourself, go visit your student while they are out of the country, it’s a great way to plan a family trip.  Each campus varies, but studying abroad is becoming more popular.

Enjoy the next four years, take time for yourself and your partner. Empty Nest should be a good time to fill with new found hobbies that you’ve wanted to do for the last 18 years.

P.S. But wait, then there is the boomerang generation, its called the crowded nest. Many other parents share the crowded-nest problem. A 2015 survey found that almost 40 percent of young Americans are living with parents, siblings or other relatives, the highest percentage in 75 years, read more about that here.