Emptying the Nest, One College Freshman at a Time

If this is your first or only child heading off to college, prepare for changes at home.

by Anne Vaccaro Brady

Last year, I ran a guest post by a college administrator about surviving your freshman’s first semester. This time around, I’d like to take a closer look at what’s happening at home.

Empty Nest

Empty Nest (Photo credit: Kristine Paulus)

A new household takes shape Whether one teenager set off for college or your nest emptied completely, changes are afoot. One less voice at the dinner table makes a difference, no matter how big or small your family. There are also things like less laundry and modifications to your grocery list.

When we sat down for the first dinner after our daughter, our oldest, left for college, I cried when I looked at her empty chair. A little much, I know. My husband and son laughed at me. The next night my husband changed our seats.

Focusing on the younger siblings Though you didn’t completely ignore your other kid(s), the one going to college took center stage for the past year or so. Now you can give everyone the time they need. Conversations in the car or at mealtimes (that schedule might change, too) will bring some new perspectives.

Be aware that not all sibs want the extra attention. My son freaked a bit before his sister left for college worrying that I would turn too bright a spotlight on him. Of course he was entering junior year of high school and knew I’d be on him about starting his prospective college list, planning campus tours, etc. Later on, he told me I wasn’t as bad as he’d feared. Thanks, I think.

Take advantage of your new availability to attend more of your other kids’ activities, be a parent volunteer (okay, maybe they won’t want this one) and more easily give them your undivided attention when they need it.

smartphone2When everyone misses the college freshman Each family has its own dynamic and when one child leaves, even temporarily, there can be a hole. Be prepared for the mourning period by everyone left at home.

You may not have realized how much your kids talked to each other until they can’t as easily. Encourage the sibs to keep in touch. Mine texted each other during the day and sometimes knew more about what was going on with the other than I did.

Whether yours is a single- or two-parent household, when your only child leaves the nest for a while, you realize you’re entering a new phase of your life. Embrace the moment, the same way you did when your child first entered your life.

Don’t make every discussion about the college kid Do you remember that “Brady Bunch” episode when Jan complains, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia,” because she felt her older sister was all everyone wanted to talk about? If you handle this wrong, the kid(s) at home will feel the same way. Sure, acknowledge that you miss your son or daughter, then enjoy everything going on with the other kid(s). Remember, they’ll be leaving one day, too.

If your nest is completely empty, take advantage of the opportunity to talk with adult friends and family about topics other than your children once in a while. You might find the change refreshing.

Turn it positive Stop staring at the empty bedroom and appreciate the fact that you raised a young adult who can live without you. Enjoy the opportunity to focus on your other kid(s), your career, yourself and, if you have one, your spouse or your partner.

As a member of the sandwich generation, you might finally have some of that extra time you’ve wanted to give to your aging parents, whether it’s an additional phone call during the week or dinner together once in a while.

Instead of wallowing in the realization that you can’t watch your kid in any more high school football games or band competitions or musicals, be grateful that you were able to do those things. Not all parents can make the time.

Don’t worry Parents’/Family Weekend really isn’t that far away, then it’s Thanksgiving and Winter breaks, and the nest will fill up once again. That’s when you’ll need my post on the first visit home.

Experienced parents, share how you dealt with your nest emptying in the comments section below.

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2 Responses to Emptying the Nest, One College Freshman at a Time

  1. Between the two of us we have sent our three oldest to college and lived to tell the tales. They all live within driving distance and with game sot watch and visiting days plus generous school holidays, we see them quite often. Plus, January – it is a very long month for some schools that barely acknowledge it as part of the academic calendar.

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