Raising teenagers is a tough job, but letting go when the time arrives can be just as challenging. Its not unusual for parents to experience feelings of loss and loneliness known as empty nest syndrome when their children go off to college.
Dedicating most of your time, money and energy to a child for 17 or 18 years means that life can seem drastically different when he or she leaves the house. If your son or daughter has graduated from high school and will be heading off to college this fall, consider the following college advice for parentsa little help in dealing with empty nest syndrome.
Some teenagers have curfews while other parents simply ask their kids to estimate when theyll be home for the night and call if plans change. Not knowing where your child is or what hes doingsitting at school, grabbing dinner with friendsas often as youre accustomed to can be tough. Even if you dont consider yourself an overprotective parent, start to distance yourself a bit before your son or daughter goes off to college. Its okay to have rules in place while your child is living under your roof, but dont treat him or her like a 10-year-old. They wont be home much longer.
Its sad but true. Many teenagers dont know how to wash their own clothes or cook basic meals like a box of macaroni and cheese. If youve done your familys laundry for the last 20 years, explain how to separate whites from colors and read clothing labels. Show your teen how to make a couple of easy dinners from nonperishable foods. Demonstrate how to balance a check book. Explain the importance of paying billson time!and warn them about the dangers of credit card debt, but don’t be shocked if your advice is greeted with rolling eyes.
Move-in day will most likely be hectic. Just picture hundreds of other college freshmen and their parents, lugging suitcases and boxes and who-knows-what. It wont be a great time to talk about grades, finances and the like. Discuss money matters, like what you will and will not pay for, and other things of concern many months in advance. Explain to your child that youre excited for them but will miss them. Dont try to hold a serious conversation when youre dropping them off at the dorm. It wont work out.
Its common for college freshmen to be incredibly excited about leaving home for the first time and its normal for parents to feel a bit down in the dumps due to empty nest syndrome. Teens change a lot during their freshmen year, so youll notice plenty of new habits and viewpointssome that you may not completely agree withwhen your child comes home for Thanksgiving or Christmas break. Youll probably even hear comments like, Im not a kid anymore! Just remind yourself that youre not alone in this boat and realize that youll always be Mom or Dad.
Text messages and email make it easy to keep in touch without interrupting your childs schedule with a phone call. Dont be overly concerned if your child doesnt respond immediately but try to schedule weekly calls or Skype sessions to check-in. If youre close enough to campus to make the trip for the weekend, visit occasionally but not too frequently.
Love to cook but have picky eaters at home? Does the book club youve always wanted to join meet on Tuesdays, the nights you used to attend high school sports functions? Start to take advantage of your newfound me time. Pretty soon youll realize just how much you enjoy it!
If your daughter calls you to complain about her roommate, a bad grade or lack of funds for partying, listen and sympathize without coming to the rescue. Offer advice if youre asked, but dont expect her to follow through. She may just want to vent. Remind yourself that learning to survive without Mom and Dad means learning how to deal with lifes inconveniences.
If you suspect or learn something criticalfor example, your son or daughter has started abusing drugs or has developed an eating disorderseek help. Trust your instincts.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.
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