A time of change

When kids leave home for college or university parents may experience the empty-nest syndrome described in last week’s column – characterized by feelings of sadness and loss of purpose..

The syndrome affects mostly women because they customarily provide the children’s primary day-to-day care. To them, it can feel as if they are standing in the midst of nothingness because some women don’t know what to do with themselves when they realize that their most important role – that of nurturing and raising children – is over. A feeling of panic and inadequacy grips them.

Undoubtedly, it can be a difficult time and you’ll obviously want to keep in touch with your child. But don’t go to extremes – ration your calls to no more than two a week and try texting or e-mailing instead of phoning.

It’s much easier for a young person to say “ “I really miss you” in a message rather than on the phone, when other students might be listening.

Be sensitive to the fact that your son or daughter is taking a big, significant step in life and it doesn’t really have much to do with you. Your child will need your support, but will not want to feel swamped. The more you cling or show that you’re upset, the less likelihood there is of him or her contacting you.

Many teenagers are miserable and lonely for a couple of weeks, but they deal with it. And that is a great accomplishment. So be supportive, but don’t sort everything for them – and certainly don’t try to bring them back home.

At the same time, you ‘ll need some help and support for your feelings as well. Lean on your friends. Maybe some of them are going through the same thing or have already experienced it.

Accept the change, because the only healthy option you have is to adapt by moving forward. Once you feel you’re dealing with the practicalities of your child’s departure and your feelings about it, it’s a good idea to reappraise your life. The chances are you still have half of your life ahead of you.

Many women enjoy this second half of their lives enormously – and end up pursuing all sorts of activities they would never have done when they were too busy raising children.

Start planning to really make something of your new-found freedom. For example, you might like to consider further education or training. You may be a lone parent and single – in which case, you can consider extending your circle of friends and possibly finding another half . But if you’re in a long-term relationship you can start rediscovering each other and start having a more companionable and sexier time together.

But what happens if you find that your children’s departure forces you to face that your relationship leaves a lot to be desired? Can you save it? Are you both willing to try? If you don’t, or all attempts to shore up the relationship fail, then you’re going to have to face even more changes in your life.

The point is, this is a very challenging time for you. Nothing will ever be the same again. But just because your life is different, it doesn’t mean it can’t be as good.