Here’s a story I wrote a few months before I officially became an “empty nester.” Many of my friends are going through the transition from full-time parents with their kids graduating high school and starting the next phase of their lives. This story is for anyone facing the empty nest or having their oldest child graduating high school. Trust me, it gets better and you’ll learn to love some “me” time.
I’ve written about the top 10 things kids need to know before leaving for college. But, what about us? When our kids leave, it’s a drastic change in our lives.
When we took our son, our oldest child, to University of California Santa Barbara, I was strong. I was emotional about moving him into the dorms, but I was excited for him, too. I loved college. They were some of the best years. I was excited for him to love it, too.
But, then we said our good-byes. It hit. Like a punch in the stomach. Then, the tears. Oh, my! I wasn’t expecting that. The drive home, my younger child, age 15, looked at me in horror. I was falling apart. Thank goodness for her riding in the car with me. I probably would have wailed like a complete idiot without her staring at me.
My son on our friend’s sailboat during orientation weekend.
Now, I have a few months left before I face a totally empty nest. What did I learn the first time around to prepare me for this time? I wish I knew some secret to make it easier.
During orientation, UCSB gave parents a few tips on how to parent your college kid. This is what I remember:
1. Give them space. Don’t hover, don’t call too often, never call before 10 a.m.
2. Set up a time to make calls on a weekly basis — and not more often than that.
3. Expect them to get homesick. It’s natural they will miss home-cooked meals, their own room, their friends, pets, and you! Reassure them that this is normal. They tend to get homesick around six to eight weeks. It will get better. They’ll adjust. But, will you?
4. Be sure to send a few care packages. Their favorite cookies, toiletries, something to make them smile. Mid-terms and finals weeks are ideal times to mail care packages.
5. Take time for yourself! Write, paint, sew, take a yoga class. Do something every week for just you. Make a list of things you used to love doing, but through the child-raising and working years, haven’t found time to do. Make another list of things you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t. You’ll find your way.
The quilt I made my son out of his swim tee shirts.
My kids not wanting me to take their pic on the UCSB campus.