Guest Guru Natalie Caine, owner of EmptyNestSupport.com
Last Summer Before College and the Empty Nest
Saying goodbye is a major transition for your children and for you, the empty nester. Sure, you will be together in the summer fun, again next year, but at the same time, you know this summer is a landmark. Why? Who you were as the parent and who they were as your child, changes. Roles shift. Love sticks.
How do you enjoy the summer when you feel this anxiety and excitement at the same time?
1. Lower your expectations.
The guilt messages are a killer deal. “You are leaving and you are never home. How can you treat us this way? We are your parents?” Children do love their parents and appreciate the sacrifices and caring. Parents forget that, so remind yourself. This is their summer of saying goodbye to close friends, teachers, and family. They know a leap is near.
2.Speak your needs and negotiate.
Get in touch with what really matters to you this summer in regards to time together and talk about it when you aren’t defensive or demanding. Keep the chat short and listen to their response. You can always take a break and pick up the conversation later if clarity isn’t there.
3. Make fun plans for yourself.
Good practice to begin to not wait around to see if they will be available for dinner together. It isn’t easy since it is the last summer as you knew it. Don’t go through it alone.
4. Be motivated by continuing to be a good role model.
Let them see your tears and your excitement. Talk about something you are going to try, like piano lessons or tennis. You and I know they are mostly focused on themselves so keep talk short. They aren’t your counsel or your clan.
5. Get support.
You don’t have to go through this change alone. You get to cry when you need to and talk about whatever comes up. Women talk to heal. You might say the same thing over and over, so let your partner and friends know that is just how you are and you appreciate them listening to you.
6. Write a letter to your children.
Include what you love about them, what you wish for them and a little humor of what you won’t miss when they aren’t home for awhile…like the late night loud music and sound of the clicking computer. Keep a copy for you . Ask them if they want it now or tucked in their suitcase.
7. Write a letter to yourself of what you love about being their parent.
You, too can list what you won’t miss and what was difficult for you over the years. Writing is healing. Start your journal.
My two best tools are staying curious and being compassionate. Give it a try . It really does help. Grieving is part of change. Who wouldn’t be sad knowing they aren’t going to see someone everyday that they love?
When two parents were talking with me about what they worry about, will miss, regret, hope for the tool they practiced and carried was the ability to SHIFT PERCEPTION. Yes, they want more time together this summer and they realize this is their son’s last summer with the school friends they have had soccer, tests, car pool, camp, parties, sleep overs, and school trips with. They hope they will still remain friends and see each other at winter break, but they don’t really know what changes in relationships will happen. They do know , home is safe, comforting, and their parents will be there for them , no matter what. Isn’t that the best gift of all…knowing your children are loved by you and that you have let them know that is how it is, being their parent. PS Tell them that in your own words.
I have had children call me who are feeling anxious about the transition. Bottom line, they can’t hear it enough that you believe in them, trust them, and deeply love them. You know mistakes will happen and that is part of growing. They need to hear you say, “Don’t be afraid to call anytime of the day or night.”
Wouldn’t you love that kind of support? I hope you get it.
Enjoy your summer with the lists and the bbq’s and the carrying of the unknown and the dreams.
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Natalie Caine, M.A. Founder of Empty Nest Support Services
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Change is inevitable. Get Ready. Get support.
Natalie launched empty nest support services when her daughter was a senior in high school and was heading for college. She didn’t want anyone to go through this major transition in life, alone.