How NJ college parents can cope with Empty Nest Syndrome
Not all parents are relishing in the reality of a quiet house and free time as their students head off to college over the next two weeks. Those having difficulty adjusting to an empty nest for the first time should focus on the positives and new activities to fill the time, suggests Rutgers University sociology professor Deborah Carr.
"Let your child know it's a hard transition. Sometimes parents feel they need to put on kind of this front," said Carr. She suggested parents be honest that they'll miss their child and may reach out too much the first month or so.
The other things parents can do to cope with having an empty nest, Carr, explained is cognitive reframing.
"When something makes us sad, there's a new way you can look at it to make yourself happy, and in this case, parents can take great pride in the fact that they have raised a child whose now going off to college to succeed on their own, and if they can kind of relish that moment with pride that they've done a great job as a parent, I think that's something that will hopefully sustain them even when they're having a dark moment," Carr said.
Carr added every other form of sadness is short-lived.
"People adjust to everything. It might take some people a day, it may take others a month, but they will all do okay at the end," she said.
Carr cautioned parents against conveying too much sadness onto their college student.
"That could hurt the child's adjustment in school. The child might feel they have to run home every weekend, or kind of take care of mom and dad," said Carr. She pointed out the child needs to cut the apron strings, at least during the semester, then the parents can look forward to seeing the child again over a break.
Unlike the 1980s, when college students would call home on a Sunday from a pay phone, Carr also noted smart phones and social media make it much easier for students and parents to stay engaged in each other's lives.
"Not only to keep in touch more often, but to have a sense of what one's everyday life is like —from photos of their dorm, or photos of their campus, or photos of what's going on at home," Carr said. She suggested the parent and child negotiate a healthy level of interaction with respect to one another's independence.
Contact reporter Dianne DeOliveira at Dianne.DeOliveira@townsquaremedia.com