Empty nest: how to cope when your children leave for University

Dropping your child off for their first term at University can be more than a little emotional. As you leave them to settle in and make friends with their new flatmates, it suddenly dawns on you that this is actually it: you have reared a child. Your work is done.

Some parents spend the first few days moping around the house, stalking their child’s Facebook page religiously and leaving damp towels on the floor just for old-time’s sake.

Other parents embrace the freedom, take the first opportunity to scrape those old band posters from the bedroom walls and replace the bed with a posh futon.

All parents feel the loss – but everyone deals with it differently.

Getting the balance right between offering support and letting your child get on with their new-found independence can be tricky. Regaining momentum in your own life can be equally tricky. Suddenly you have all of this spare time (and money) to do something with. And how will your relationship with your spouse change? You’ve lived the past 18 years or so in the presence of other people – now, all of a sudden it’s just the two of you again.

Life after your children leave can take some getting used to. Here are some top tips for parents coping with the first term of University:

1.  Focus on your marriage

Your relationship dynamic is sure to change – suddenly it’s about you and not about the children. Spending time refocussing your marriage is important. Remember you are both in the same boat and supporting one another is vital for the first few months in the empty nest.

Sex therapist and counsellor Jane Riddley says: “Couples should take the time to sit and talk to each other about what they miss now the children are no longer around and consider what they may have gained. They should then find new things to discuss, go out together and spend at least one evening a week away from the TV nurturing their relationship.”

2. Don’t phone your child every day

As much as you want to hear how they’re getting on with Uni life, save it for the end of the week. They’re probably having far too much fun playing ring of fire around the kitchen table to take calls from anxious parents. Stick to emails or call just once a week to remind them you’re still there.

3. Keep yourself busy

Finally! Some ‘you’ time. After 18 or so years of endless piles of washing, taxiing teenagers too and fro, and arguing over who does the washing up – you finally have time to do the things you always wanted to do. Join up to evening classes, take up a new sport, go away for the weekend. There is so much to do in life and it doesn’t have to be costly. Keeping busy will stop those feelings of loss from creeping back and prevent you from moping about the house wishing there was a teenager about to nag.

If you are finding it hard to adjust to life without your children, you might benefit from booking a session with a life coach. A life coach will help you to set goals, give you the motivation to reach them and encourage you to feel positive about the changes happening in your life. Find out more about what a life coach does by visiting our FAQs page.

View and comment on the original Guardian article.

Share this article with a friend
Written by Zoe Thomas
Written by Zoe Thomas
Show comments

Find a coach dealing with Parenting

All coaches are verified professionals

All coaches are verified professionals