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Table of Contents

Choosing a College: Where Do I Start?

Navigating the Funnel

Perfect Fit

They Beg to Differ

What to Ask About Study Abroad on Campus

What's it Worth to You?

Surviving the Empty Nest: A Guide for Parents

Alumni Accomplishments

The Kenya Connection

Laurentian Reviews

Table of Contents

Surviving the Empty Nest: A Guide for Parents

By William Burns, director of counseling services

The last child in the house has left for college and you are now alone with your partner, or all by yourself. How are you feeling? What can you do to make this transition as successful as possible?

The feelings that arise when the last child leaves home have been described as the "empty nest syndrome." These feelings can affect each individual parent, a couple's marriage, and how the parents interact with the child who has recently left home.

How parents react can vary dramatically. Some experience joy, fulfillment and relief. They may see a new world of opportunity opening up before them. They are now free to focus on their own needs. They are free to do things they may not have been able to do for 18 years. Other parents will feel the pain of loss and the anxiety of letting go. They may find themselves asking, "My work is done. Now what?" Or, "What is my purpose in life?"

This transition can also have a dramatic effect on parents’ romantic relationships. Some couples enter a second honeymoon period, while others end their marriage. Single parents may have an even harder time than couples; they may need to reinvent almost every aspect of their lives and they may feel more alone than ever before. On a brighter note, single parents are now able to date without worrying about how their children will react each time they go out.

No matter what you are feeling, dealing with change can be hard. Here are some tips to help you successfully make it through this time in your life:

  • Realize that a change has occurred and that you are probably going to have to deal with feelings that you have not had before.
  • Recognize that having strong feelings about your child's leaving home is normal – allow yourself to feel whatever emotions arise.
  • Talk to someone about your feelings. If you are married, talk to your spouse – she or he may be feeling the same things you are feeling.
  • Single parents should plan on having someone to lean on for a few weeks – have a trusted friend be there for support.
  • Take care of yourself. Develop a "wellness" goal. Start an exercise program. Get yourself up and moving, rather than sitting and worrying about the change that has taken place.
  • Find a new creative outlet.
  • If you have been putting off dealing with problems in your marriage until the children left home, start now.
Finally, if after several months you are still feeling unhappy, anxious, and not able to do things up to your normal standards, consider professional help. Talking about your feelings with a mental health professional could be just what you need to move on to a happy and successful future.