The transition to college is a big step for your daughter. Her college years will be full of important changes and growth. She will learn more about who she is, what matters to her, and what she wants out of life. While this is an exciting step for her, it might be very hard on you. Move-in day comes quickly and before you can blink, you are back home while she is settling into her college life. She is growing up, starting on her path of adulthood, and separating herself from you (a normal and important process called individuation). It is normal for this to trigger a form of identity crisis for you, along with feelings of fear, worry, grief, or purposelessness. While experiencing what is commonly known as “empty nest syndrome,” many parents find themselves wondering:
Is she ready?
Did I do all that I could to prepare her?
Will she be able to handle the challenges of college and independence?
Did I give her enough opportunities to prepare?
What do I do now??
One way to handle this transition is to focus on cultivating and reconnecting with the same qualities you want for your teen daughter. Here are 4 ways to deal with Empty Nest Syndrome:
1. Be Open to New Experiences
Just as you want your daughter to take advantage of new experiences and opportunities, you can do the same. Consider what you’ve always wanted to do but never had the time. Focus on strengthening old friendships or fostering new ones. Explore an interest or new hobby. Create experiences that bring you joy and spark interest and creativity. Be open to what unfolds for you.
2. Adjust Your Pace and Focus Your Attention
While your daughter’s life may be picking up pace, this may be an ideal time for you to slow down. During the middle and high school years, life was full and moving full speed ahead. Driving to and from activities, attending school events, providing constant reminders about homework or chores, and worrying soaked up a lot of your valuable energy and time. Now, your parent-administrator days are behind you. You can start moving through life at a slower, more mindful pace. As you slow down, focus your attention on the little things, the joyful moments. Cultivate a practice of mindfulness and enjoy the peace that follows.
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3. Practice Self-Care and Self Compassion
Self-care and self-compassion are important practices for your daughter, especially as she embarks on the first year of college. You can be a powerful model for her. Show her how you practice being kind to yourself, especially if your teen’s transition to college has left you feeling down, anxious, or hard on yourself. Consider how you can structure your days so stress and worry are at a minimum. Carve out time for self-nurturing practices or activities. When worries or questions or doubts enter your mind, practice self-compassion. Remind yourself that you did the best you could. You laid a strong foundation for your teen and now she is ready to soar.
4. Parent Differently
As your teen transitions into adulthood, she needs a new kind of parent. This is your opportunity to let go and support her as she makes decisions on her own. To coach her toward her optimal outcomes and potential. To be a guide and resource as she paves her way into healthy independence and responsible adulthood. Parent coaching can provide you with a new set of parenting tools that are perfect for your young adult. You will learn how to step back, empower her, and take care of yourself.