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It’s a jarring thing for any parent, to go from having the child in the home, and being completely responsible for them, to having them move away for university.
“Empty nest syndrome” has been written and spoken about for a long time. And yet, the transition between helping your child look for student housing, to actually returning to an empty home, is never easy.
Here are just a few things to keep in mind when your child is moving away for university, for the sake of protecting your own sanity, your child’s sanity, and the well-being of everyone involved.
You’ll never stop being their parent, but this does mark a transition point in your relationship
Part of the emotional upset and uncertainty that comes with having your child move away for university is likely to be a sense of loss – a feeling as though the relationship between you and your child has somehow ended, or as if you’ve stopped being their parent, or are “no longer needed.”
Of course, this is a silly way to look at things. Did you ever stop “needing,” “loving,” or “being connected to,” your own parents, even as an adult?
It’s important to realise and remember that you will never stop being your child’s parent, and they will never stop being your child. But that the fact they’re moving away does mark a transition point in your relationship. A point where they’ll need to be given autonomy.
It’s important to rely on your partner and have hobbies and activities to keep you preoccupied in your child’s absence
If you are a stay-at-home parent, in particular, it is likely that a huge part of your everyday life revolves around ferrying your children to and from school, cooking meals for the family, and so on.
Once your children have gone away to university, you can easily find yourself lacking a sense of purpose and direction, feeling lonely in the home, and having a very difficult time figuring out how to make sense of things and fill your time.
It’s important to rely on your partner during this time, and to have hobbies and activities lined up in advance to keep you preoccupied in the absence of your child. You need to fill your days with things that keep you busy and focused. Don’t just leave a big gap in your days.
They need to make their own mistakes and discoveries
Every parent wants their child to be as happy, safe, and wise as possible, and not to do anything that could cause them serious trouble.
When your child moves away to university, you’ll likely be tempted to “check in on them” very frequently, to offer plenty of unsolicited advice, and to chastise them every time you have a feeling that they’ve been misbehaving.
It’s important to keep in mind, however, that your child is now in a situation where they need to make their own mistakes and discoveries, and encounter the world on their own terms. You should certainly be there if they need to talk, and should be willing to offer your advice, but you shouldn’t try to micromanage their lives.
For one thing, this is only likely to cause a breakdown in communication between you and them. For another thing, it can stunt the development of your child’s ability to be autonomous.
Trust in the values you’ve hopefully taught them by that point, and let them (mostly) get on with it.