From Dr. Jane's Notebook
Mom & Dad: Home Alone After All These Years
At least once a day, someone asks how I am coping with Empty Nest Syndrome. I am
extremely fortunate to have two children away from home at college. How am I doing?
Im not sure, but these are some things Ive thought of recently.
- What does an empty nest feel like? Actually, it feels more like a train
station. Sometimes its busy; sometimes its slow. Over the years, my husband and I have
taken precautions against anything that might resemble a truly empty nest by filling our
environment with dogs, cats, fish, birds and even a squirrel. After all, pets are the
children who never leave home. As a result, even when I am alone, it is hard to feel
lonely with a herd surrounding me. Further, because my husband and I have continually
devoted energy to our relationship as a couple over the years, the fact of the matter is,
I still live with my best friend.
- What do you do in an Empty Nest? If you are fortunate enough to have your mate,
empty nest is the time to fortify your marital bonds. Remember back when you were dating?
It took a lot of work to be attractive, witty, seductive, interesting and fun to be with.
Well, guess what? You may have been cutting yourself some slack over the past few years
while attending to the needs of the kids, but now its time to get busy again and pour lots
of energy into your marital relationship. For many couples, this time of life is a real
test of friendship and commitment. It is also a good time to take care of some necessary
repairs to your marriage.
- Im starting to feel very grown-up. I have a new-found respect for other
parents who have supported their children through college. I now realize that this is not
an easy thing. The buck really does stop here. Two of the goals of college are for your
child to identify a career which will be right for them and for them to be able to support
themselves after college. Until they can do this, our continued financial and emotional
support are critical to their success.
- Children must become strong. There is little worse than a baby bird who takes
flight and crashes to the ground. No doubt, the mama and papa bird would be arguing in the
nest above about whose fault it is. Neither is happy about this little set-back so they
fight over who will comfort and who will confront the baby bird. Both are praying that a
miracle will happen and the baby bird will spontaneously take flight.
To insure that your baby bird will take flight easily and successfully, reassure your
child about the value of their studies and make sure they dont suffer from guilt
either about the cost of school or any guilt associated with leaving home. Their studies
and this time away from the family will pay off in the long run.
- The meaning of phone calls. The frequency of calls home can be very diagnostic.
My husband and I are very close with our children, yet we assume that "no news is
good news". College kids who call home daily and want to talk to the family for hours
may not be making a good social adjustment to their new environment. Its always a good
idea to encourage college students to seek the counseling services that are offered to
them on campus. Likewise, if you are a parent who calls "too often", you may not
be allowing your child sufficient breathing room. This may be a good time in your life to
take a continuing education class or two and develop some new interests for yourself.
Lastly, I have learned that both mama birds and papa birds are emotional when it comes
to their children. Whenever my children are far away, I get the sensation that our
invisible umbilical cord is being stretched much further than it was meant to reach. At
one time, I thought that the umbilical cord was a "mama bird" thing. But lately
Ive come to realize that papa birds feel the very same way. What do mama birds and
papa birds do in the nest once the baby birds are all gone? Well, one thing you can do is
fall back in love with each other again. It is possible to miss your kids without feeling
ęCopyright, 2000, Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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