No one can really prepare parents for the rush of emotions after their child leaves for college. From the application process and college visits to preparation and move-in, the transition process is exciting, yet goes by quickly.
Suddenly, after the big college drop-off, the letdown of the excitement turns into unexpected, perhaps unmanageable, grief and sadness. The quietness and loneliness can overwhelm to the point of depression.
These do’s and don’ts can help you feel less empty and embrace happiness for your child upon their departure from home.
6 Steps for Coping with Empty Nest Syndrome
Don’t Ignore What’s Coming: It’s easy to maintain tunnel vision in preparing your child for college. Blocking out your future empty nest until the last minute can create an emotional shock, which may only deepen the pain as it hits you full force. Prepare yourself for the emotions to come with a list of ideas to keep you busy as you rebuild your life.
Reclaim Your Identity: If this is your only or last child to leave the home, fear can settle in as an identity rooted in parenthood becomes dismantled. Embrace this transition as time to reinvest in yourself by joining a book or movie club – or taking on a new hobby like gardening or golf. Find strength in starting over, focusing on your wants and needs.
Avoid Big Changes: Dr. Gail Saltz, M.D., psychiatrist and TODAY contributor, recommends holding off on big changes like moving. Escaping empty nest issues through an abrupt change won’t mitigate your emotions. Full adjustment can take one and half to two years.
Pursue New Interests: With this vacancy in time, list out things you’ve always wanted to accomplish or experience. This could be the time to rekindle romance with your spouse on a dream trip. Maybe you could take a class on something you’ve always wanted to learn. You may even want to go back to school to advance your education or change careers. Ask yourself, “What’s my passion?” and “What’s my purpose?” during this new period in your life.
Don’t Over-Involve Yourself in Your Child’s New Life: You may feel compelled to open up to your child about missing them and telling them they don’t call or visit enough. Allow your child to experience this new chapter free of family guilt or concern. Instead, reach out for support from your spouse, family members and other empty-nesters who share your feelings.
Get Involved at GCU: You can, however, find an appropriate role in your child’s college experience through appropriate parent-involvement opportunities at GCU. Become acquainted with GCU at Parent Orientation during Welcome Week where you can meet and socialize with other parents. You can also stay connected with your child and the university by subscribing to the Parent Connection e-newsletter, joining Parent Council or signing up for the Parent Portal.
Like with any loss, there will be good and bad days. Cherish the good days and embrace the bad days with the understanding that you will adjust to this new norm. Support, along with a willingness to make the best of this next stage in your life, will help you positively navigate this uncharted territory.
If your child has an interest in attending Grand Canyon University, visit our website or contact us today by clicking the Request More Information button at the top of the page!
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University.