5 Tips for Dealing with Empty Nest Syndrome

When students go off to college, it can be just as stressful for parents. Here’s how to cope.

Many parents experience a mix of feelings when sending their children off to college. Those feelings might include depression, a sense of loss of purpose, stress and anxiety and are often associated with empty nest syndrome.

I’m no stranger to the process—last month my husband and I dropped our youngest child off to begin her freshman year at college. My emotions ranged from excitement and pride in my daughter, who was about to embark on new adventures, to feelings of sadness. No matter how excited I was for her, I knew I’d miss seeing her everyday, making her favorite dinners and watching her play school sports.

Despite the emotional roller coaster, empty nest syndrome may have some positives. Studies show that many people report an improvement in their marriages and other relationships and are happy with their newfound sense of freedom. For many parents, it’s a time to pursue new hobbies and adventures. 

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Struggling through the process is normal, though. Here are five tips to help get you through those first months.

  1. Be social. Reconnect with old friends and nourish current friendships. Social media and technology make it easier to reconnect, but also try spending time together in person. Doing so decreases feelings of depression, worry and anxiety.  
  2. Practice self-compassion. Accept whatever feelings you have and remember they won’t last forever. Allow yourself time to adjust.
  3. Schedule weekly phone calls with your child. Video calls are great ways for remaining connected.
  4. Set long-term goals. Pursue a life-long goal you’ve put on hold, whether it’s going back to school, returning to work or writing a book. Goals foster feelings of purpose.
  5. Talk to a professional. If you’re struggling with the mix of emotions, have frequent crying episodes, feel irritable, have trouble sleeping and difficulty with focusing and concentrating, schedule an appointment to talk with a mental health professional. Talking is cathartic and fosters.

This September Dr. Durlofsky is running a group for empty nesters. To join, call her at (610) 527-1107.

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