Adjusting to a child leaving your home is a unique experience. The way that child influences your home is all of the sudden absent. Most parents do just fine and then out of nowhere, something happens that brings out the tears.
Here are some examples from my friends...
Jackie was at the grocery store and reached out to grab a 2-liter of Pepsi, when she thought to herself, “Grant is the only one that drinks Pepsi.” By the time she told the guy at the meat counter that she only needed 3 pork chops instead of four, she was a sobbing mess.
Christi made it through the grocery store, realizing in every aisle that she didn’t need this or that anymore because Jeffery is in college now. When she finally reached the check-out counter and the cashier asked, “How are you?” - that’s when she broke down crying.
Jeff was out to dinner with his wife and two younger kids. Without thinking, he pulled a fifth chair up to the table. Then he realized they didn’t need a chair for Joseph because he is in college now!
The child that you are taking to college has been in your care for over 18 years. It is going to take some time to adjust to them not being around.
Please have self-compassion. Expect that you will cry and be sad about this. It’s been 18 YEARS!! Remember we are built for connection. Our relationships are like an invisible elastic string that stretches between us whether we are near or far. But of course, far hurts more than near. Our connections with our children are the most significant connections we have.
You may notice reduced energy.
You may cry when you walk past their room.
You may not want to do your normal activities for a little bit.
You will likely miss your child and their friends.
All these things are NORMAL - give yourself permission to work through them.
AND it may be really hard if they are not struggling in the same way. They are getting used to a new life and they may love it. And you know what? That means that you have done a good job. You provided them with safety and security. They know that you are there for them if they need you. This is a healthy development: parents grieving, children thriving.
So please provide space for yourself to recognize this important milestone. Journal, grieve, share with a friend, crawl under your Weighting Comforts weighted blanket. ;)
Make some new plans!!
What do you want to do that you didn’t have time to do before?
Would you like to start a new hobby?
Do you have time for travel or friends that you didn’t before?
Lastly, begin to embrace the good things about being an empty-nester! Not everyone has the same experience, but my husband Jamey and I are having a lot of fun. Just imagine...
WE DO NOT LIVE BY THE DAILY SCHOOL CALENDAR ANYMORE!! For over 15 years our schedule was dictated by taking kids to school, picking them up, sports, and other extracurricular activities.
We eat WHAT we want, WHEN we want! No one complains about food.
We go WHERE we want WHEN we want.
We watch what WE want to watch on TV. No one complains.
We have more time to spend with each other and that has been so much fun!
We get to travel more.
What our kids are doing truly enriches OUR lives too. They expose us to new things.
So all in all, it IS going to be an adjustment.
But YOU CAN DO IT!
If you can raise a kid to be 18, you can do ANYTHING!!
Donna Durham, MMFT
President & Co-Founder
*Dorm picture from Pinterest