4 Tips to Prepare for an Empty Nest
Congrats! You survived the teenage years and are preparing to launch your high school grad into their freshman year of college. Can you believe how fast time flies? Change isn’t always easy, but it is inevitable.
This summer has most likely felt like a roller coaster as you packed in as many memories as possible from vacations to shopping for dorm room supplies. This transition marks an important milestone in your child’s life, which is exciting and scary all at the same time. It’s also a big transition for you and your partner as well! For the past 18 years, you’ve pretty much focused all priorities around raising your child and supporting your family, but those priorities are about to shift.
Below are 4 tips to prepare for an empty nest so you and your partner can successfully navigate this transition.
1.) Connect with your support system. Talk with other parents who are going through the same thing or have just been through it. Remember, every family goes through this so you’re not alone. Parental support in your community is a great resource and you’ll find comfort in hearing what other families have been through. You will feel a void in the house and your family dynamic with shift, even if you still have younger children at home. You will most likely experience lots of mixed emotions, stress, uncertainties, changes, opportunity, growth, and of course pride. Talk about it, with each other, with a therapist, and with your other children. It’s ok to share where you are on that rollercoaster ride and you all will most likely be getting through it together!
2.) Re-prioritize your relationship with your partner. It’s no surprise that many couples drift apart during the childrearing years. However, it’s super important to re-prioritize your relationship so you don’t feel like you’re living with a stranger once the kids leave. Your relationship will need time to adjust after launching your kids off to school. Sometimes couples feel as though their children are all they have in common with each other, but that simply isn’t the case.
In fact, studies show that marriages of empty nesters gained significant marital satisfaction once the kids left! Plan dates, create new memories together, and spend quality time reconnecting with your spouse/partner. Go through the process and transition together. Be supportive and empathetic to each other. You two should be very proud, relish in that!
3.) Be an anchor for your college freshman. Take comfort in the concept that a part of you is going with your child off to school. After all, you and your partner have established the foundation over the past 18 years and that will accompany your child throughout their tenure at school!
Your child will be experiencing and adjusting to many things all at once; roommates, finances, school-work like they’ve never known before, meal plans, keg stands, household chores, and time management. Your child will need emotional support from their family to make it through the next four years. Be there for them, listen and encourage them. You might not be able to fix their problems, so prepare to be an empathetic listener and a cheerleader!
Also, you and your partner will need to work on your tech savviness as you may not be getting a phone call every week as you hoped. It may be quick texts here and there throughout the week or a FaceTime check in… so work together to be flexible and open to your freshman’s preferred communication style.
4.) Go to Couples or Individual Therapy. Your identity will shift a bit as you become an empty nester and so will your relationship with your spouse/partner. Take time to explore your feelings and vulnerabilities about this transition in therapy by yourself and/or with your partner. Couples therapy can help you and your partner reconnect as friends, rekindle the spark, and revive the intimacy creating more a fulfilled relationship to carry you through the next stage of life together.
If you need additional support with the college transition or any other life changes, call Dr. Kate Campbell, LMFT at 954.391.5305 ext. 1 to discuss setting up a session. Dr. Kate provides counseling for adults experiencing transitions with individual counseling, couples counseling and family counseling in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.