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Adjust to the Empty Nest

Life transitions are major events that accent the fluidity of our daily existence. Accordingly, life alterations can be significant imparting stress and emotional burden.

While the new-bound college students are excited to embrace a new independent life, parents often face emotional and lifestyle adjustments.

In response, professionals have put together a self-help kit on how to handle the college transition, and how to overcome the sadness. Additionally, tips to help your child become a financially responsible adult, and staying connected without overstepping limits are timely insights.

“A lot of parents experience a sense of sadness or loss when their child goes away for college,” says Dr. Margo Benjamin, assistant attending child and adolescent psychiatrist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division and assistant professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College.

“It’s often helpful for parents to share their feelings with each other as well as talk with other parents who have gone through the same experience.”

“For your college-bound child, the goal is transitioning them into greater independence and responsibility. If you’re a so-called helicopter parent who micromanages your child’s life, now is the time to land,” says Dr. Karen Soren, director of adolescent health services at NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital.

“Even before they go away, give your child more freedom, while your direct oversight is still possible.”

Drs. Benjamin and Soren offer more tips on making the college transition easier, including:

* Keep in touch, but don’t overdo it. When your child goes away to school, it may be an opportunity to develop a different kind of relationship. Recognize that their new independence is an important step.
* The Sunday night phone call is no longer the norm. Intermittent cell phone calls and e-mails are now common.
* Children appreciate a space of their own when they come home to visit. Parents often redecorate and reclaim some space, but ask your child first. See if you can give them another space to call their own.
* Educate yourself on the school’s policies toward drinking and other rules. Talk to your child about their responsibilities and their safety. Problems like binge drinking start as early as the first weeks of school.
* Talk to your child about money. Come to an understanding about who is paying for tuition, books, clothing, travel, phone, etc. Discuss whether they will take a part-time job or use a credit card (credit card companies aggressively market to college students).
* Read everything that the school sends you. Stay informed, and if there’s a parents’ visiting day, go.
* If parent or child has prolonged difficulty adjusting, they should seek professional evaluation.

Source: NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center

Adjust to the Empty Nest

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Adjust to the Empty Nest. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 21, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.