At this time of year many children are leaving home to go to university and parents find themselves having to deal with an empty nest. This is a very trying and emotional time for parents, which can either bring them closer together or tear them apart.
Some parents are hit harder by the empty nest syndrome than others. Those who have based their identity on being a parent suddenly find themselves lost without their child. Your child has been part of your daily life for the last 18 years, so it's normal to feel a sense of grief when they have moved away.
If your child leaving creates a hole in your life, you must find new and healthy ways to fill it. The empty nest often means that you have to adjust to living alone with your partner again, which you haven't done for 18 years. It's very common for old tensions or arguments to resurface and explode, so it's important to make a real effort to connect with them again. You should use this time to focus on your relationship.
Here are some simple tips for maintaining your relationship and surviving the empty nest:
1. Remember that it's just as much an adjustment for your partner as it is for you. You're probably both anxious about your child being away, so use each other for support. Connect in the joy and pride you feel for your child's achievements.
2. Make time for romantic dates or nights in, as well as planning trips together to spice things up. Make use of the empty house and the lack of interruptions. You can behave like teenagers again without anyone judging you.
3. Take up some old hobbies or find new ones to do together. For instance, you could go for walks, join the local cycling club etc.
4. Spend time with family and friends, both with your partner and on your own. Now that you are going to be spending more time together alone, there is a danger of getting very fed up with each other. That can be avoided if you get out and about and see and enjoy the company of other people too.
5. If you find that you're struggling and there is tension, take some time to sit and talk to each other about it at a time when you're both relaxed and in private. Don't let problems fester, try to have an honest talk and listen as much as you speak.
6. Some of the tensions between you may come from the huge financial burden of funding a child through university. Draw up a budget and be open with your child about how much you can afford to give them. Make it clear that you don't have bottomless pockets - your child has to learn to budget. It can be a harsh lesson but its one they have to learn.
Your child will also be struggling emotionally with the new pressures on them, even if they pretend otherwise. It's important that you don't burden them with any problems you have. The image of the comfortable, safe home, being there for them if they need it, helps many first year students adjust.
There are many positives that come from your child leaving home for university. It's a time when you can explore, whether through travel, renewing old friendships and interests or starting new ones and is the perfect time to refresh your relationship. Try and enjoy this time. Christmas will soon be here and that mountain of washing and demands for lifts and meals at strange times, will become part of your daily life again.