WOMAN: Flying the nest
It is only natural that a child leaving home for university will make most parents feeling a sense of loss. For the first time your baby will be fending for themselves in the bright lights of a new town or city.
You will not be seeing them every day and you are unlikely to know where they are or what they are doing.
This can cause you to worry constantly about how they are going to cope by themselves without you. If they are your only child, then it’s very common to experience what is known as empty nest syndrome. Suddenly, it’s just yourself or you and your partner rattling around the house which will no doubt seem quiet without an 18-year-old at home.
Even if they have siblings, it can still feel strange for one of the family to be missing especially at meal-times and weekends when you would normally be together.
But there are ways to cope with these difficult feelings and also to stay positive about this huge change in your family life. One of the best ways to do this is to ensure they are as well prepared as they can be for the next phase of their lives. Sit down together to make a list of what they need and make plans to go shopping for the items they don’t already own ahead of time.
Showing them how to do their own laundry and cook some basic, healthy meals before they go is another way to put your mind at ease.
Teaching them about how to stay safe while out and about is also key to you dealing with any concerns better.
Try not to show them how you are feeling because you want them to remain enthusiastic and excited about going to university. They may think they have a reason to be concerned if they see you looking unhappy. Before you say goodbye agree on a way to stay in touch that suits you both such as a texts or a weekly email or call.
You will both benefit if you can let go so try to wait until they contact you. If you do send the first text or make the first call, then don’t panic if they do not respond or answer immediately. Remember they are going to be busy and it is vital that they have time to settle into their new way of life.
As hard as it might be and however much you miss them, don’t make any plans to visit them straight away and discourage them from coming home. Even if you know they are feeling homesick, persuade them to stick it out because a visit home will often just exacerbate it when they return to university.
Father-of-two Simon Jenkinson says it can be an emotional moment as you leave your child at their university halls on that first day.
“When my daughter Emma went to university I wasn’t prepared at all for how it would make me feel. I’m embarrassed to say there was more than one tear in my eye as I drove back down the motorway after dropping her off. I realised she was growing up and wouldn’t need me so much now. If she had a problem, I wouldn’t be there to make it all better for her. I was two hours away and although I would be more than happy to drop everything to get to her, it still felt like she was thousands of miles away.
“It took some getting used to and my wife Sarah and son Mark definitely noticed the difference in those first few weeks. But it got easier and we looked forward to her weekend visits and the holidays. We really made the most of the limited time we had together and I think it helped strengthen the bond between us,” says Simon, who lives in Kidderminster.
If they are your only child, then relish the opportunity to spend more quality time with your partner. Make plans for your evenings and weekends so you are able to stay busy. You may decide to find a hobby or sport to fill the time or arrange to meet close friends more regularly.
This should help to keep your mind from constantly thinking about how much you miss your son or daughter and also enable you to establish a new routine.
The same is also true if they have other siblings at home but at the same time be careful not to smother them. A teenager will probably not appreciate you suddenly getting more involved in their life than you already are!
It’s also important to remember that they may also be sad because their brother or sister has moved out so be mindful of their feelings too.
Be careful about what you say and how you act around them because if they see you moping around, it may make them feel second best.
Above everything else remember it’s always much better to look on the bright side. Your child may be a few hours away rather than upstairs in their bedroom but you will still see them and them heading off to university is a great achievement for both of you.