Leaving for college is an exciting thing. We are all ready to start a new chapter, take actually interesting classes, make new friends and eat ramen for breakfast. Mom won’t be there to stop us from indulging on candy in the middle of the night and Dad certainly won’t be there to comment on our clothing choices. Most of us come from some type of support network. Our parents, guardians and/or extended family have been guiding our lives since day one. Regardless of whether they were the protective types or the relaxed “cool” types, our interactions with them determined a large part of our lives.
As we get bogged down in college preparations, though, we tend to put them in the back of our minds. After all, this is our chance to be free! But don’t forget that this is a significant time for them as well and your abrupt (or even gradual) disappearance from their lives can leave them plagued with the Empty Nest Syndrome.
Empty Nest Syndrome refers to feelings of depression experienced by caretakers after their children leave their side. It can be experienced by caretakers of all genders, age and personality type and can result in waves of hollowness.
Here are a few things you can do for them to help them cope with your departure:
1. Involve them in your college preparations.
This may be the last time in the near future that they are able to directly assist you with your decision-making process, so let them have some fun. Remember that they are not just a walking credit card for your dorm shopping expenses, but someone who wants to shop with you and share their opinions with you. Letting them help you shop, organize and pack can help assure them that you have everything you need for your college life.
Of course, if they want to help you move in, let them! Lots of parents will be there on move-in-day, and let’s be real, you’re going to want some help carrying all those boxes.
2. Spend quality time with them before you leave.
When was the last time you sat down for dinner with your caretakers and family? While this is the summer of saying goodbyes to friends who will be attending different schools, be sure to allocate some time for your family as well. Once you leave for college, you may not see them again for a long time. By making some last memories with your family, you’ll be able to leave them with less regrets. Be sure to take lots of pictures!
3. Communicate with them while you’re at college.
Nothing frightens them more than not knowing how you are doing. Yet, they are also afraid to call you. They fear becoming too clingy and annoying. They’re even more worried that they may call at a bad time and disrupt you in the middle of your studies. Often, they’ll worry in silence. At times like this, you have to be the responsible one and call them. Let them know that you are doing well, eating, making friends and taking care of yourself.
Also make sure to set boundaries. Let them know how often you’ll be able to see them, what type of freedoms you desire and what you need from them. If you are still using their finances, always let them know before any major purchases. Avoiding misunderstandings is key to maintaining a positive relationship with them.
4. Remind them that you appreciate them.
Most importantly, always let them know that you appreciate everything they have done for you. After the house is empty, many caretakers will find themselves wondering whether or not they did enough for you. They will question their decisions in raising you. Should they have taken you to that one concert? Should they have made you go to more piano lessons? Should they have hugged you more? These insecurities will gnaw away at them. At times like this, the best thing you can do is tell them that regardless of whether or not they were perfect guardians, they were enough.
The transition from full-time caretaker to empty house watcher will take time and be tough for them. As college swings into action, you might forget that. So do your best to remember this: you can never call them enough or send them enough college swag, so do not be afraid to keep them close at heart.
Lead Image Credit: Amit Patel via Flickr Creative Commons