5 Things New Empty Nesting Parents Should Avoid

by Diane Sweeney on September 4, 2014

Off to collegeDorm rooms have been organized. Meal plans have been figured out. Big box store purchases have been divided and placed into containers, plastic bags and stuffed into drawers; some never to be seen again until next May.

You gave your son or daughter everything you thought they would need, including the extra bucks on their school’s ‘dollars’ card.

Tears and hugs were shared. Your child turned away to begin their new life, surrounded by strangers who may be their next BFF or their nemesis by the end of the weekend.

You pulled away, in your now strangely empty and large SUV, and headed back home, with a thousand more questions to ask your kid swimming through your brain, and even more to ask those strangers who they are now their roommates and classmates.

After 18 years of knowing almost everything there is to know about what is going on in this person’s life, 24/7, you realize that YOU are the one who will be forced to adapt to a new situation of ‘not knowing’ just as your child is adapting to their new school and friends.


When faced with change, we often tend to fall back into old habits. They are comfortable, they are what we know. Especially when it comes to parenting.


You are no longer parenting a child – you are parenting a young adult.


One who needs space, time and your confidence that they’ve got the ability to exist and flourish on their own.


In order to allow this newly emerging adult to find their way, there are certain things that you, this newly emerging empty nesting parent, should avoid:


1. Texting your son/daughter every day. They cannot become independent if every day you text every day to find out how they are doing. Assume no news is good news. Not that you can’t send an ‘all good?’ text ever few days. Just trust that they will text you when necessary.
2. Posting cutesy stuff to your FB page and tagging them. You already learned this when they were in high school. The rules haven’t changed. It doesn’t get cuter just because they can’t yell at you in person. There will come a time when occasional comical TBT family photos will be acceptable, appropriate and found to be funny. Trust me, now is not the time.
3. Telling them how much you miss them. They know you miss them. And there are moments they miss you too. Bringing up the subject in every conversation doesn’t change anything. Instead, let them know you are excited about what they are experiencing.
4. Getting upset with them if they don’t call often, write grandma, or remember a cousin’s birthday. They will mature into these habits (or not). Right now, they are figuring out where they fit in socially and which professor will ruin every football weekend with a paper that is due. Your priorities are not their priorities.
5. Telling them about everything that is happening in their old high school, sports team and in town. They care… to an extent. But with social media connections, they know more of this stuff before you do. And quite honestly, they are moving on and need to leave some of this behind for the moment. There will be opportunities to help them ‘catch up’ but it shouldn’t be with every call or contact.

Staying in touch with your child is important. Reminding them of connections to friends and family is a good thing.


Constantly thinking they should be part of your life, with your priorities and interests is not healthy for either of you.


It’s time for them to go and grow into the adults you’ve raised them to become.


And it’s time for you to get focused on the rest of your life!


Share your experiences of ‘letting go’ during these first weeks without your kids in the comment section below. We are all here to support one another.


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