Teach Coping and Resilience as Your Child Leaves the Nest

Ask the Experts by Mary Petersen

Q: My child just left to go away to college, and I am struggling with the adjustment to an empty nest. What would make this easier?

A: Parents put so much into the raising of children, and yet they are still surprised to find that once they are launched it can leave a big hole in their lives. But this transition is also a beautiful thing that allows children to spread their wings in the way they have been prepared to do. It also gives parents a new freedom they haven’t had for many years – but now with the wisdom of maturity to enjoy it more richly.

We all want our children to succeed, but some deliberate about the best way to help them do that, and in what time frame. Some believe in protecting children as much as possible and limiting their exposure to things that might harm them. Others (myself included) believe that we cannot (and should not) shelter children from everything. We must give them reasonable precautionary measures and life skills, and then teach coping and resilience so they still thrive even through the normal life challenges. Our goal is to raise confident children who are functional, adult members of society. Then let them fly! Realizing that you have completed your mission can make the transition easier.

Once you have prepared for this, the next step is re-defining roles – that you have as a parent with your child, with your spouse, and with yourself. You may have to renegotiate your marriage or find ways to give your child space to grow more independent yet still stay connected to you. You may also have to redefine your purpose – especially if you were a stay-home parent whose focus was largely child-rearing. Keep in mind that it is normal and healthy for children to leave home, and that after grieving the transition, you can see this as a beautiful thing!

Mary Petersen, LMSW, ACSW is a psychotherapist in private practice. Mary is a member of the Family Center Association of Professionals and a member of their Board. Find out more at  www.marypetersen.com

Empty Nest: A Bittersweet Transition
October 9, 2018
Grosse Pointe Congregational Church, 240 Chalfonte, Grosse Pointe Farms
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Enriched Communities Through Stronger Families
The Family Center serves as the community’s hub for information, resources and referral for both families and professionals. The Family Center is a non-profit organization founded to promote a deeper understanding of the role of parents and others in supporting our youth to become competent, caring and responsible community members.

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