Monday, September 6, 2010

Tips for Empty Nesters

I cannot imagine how hard it will be for me to let my kids go to college. It seems so far away, but time is really flying. I can't believe Labor Day Weekend is over. :( What beautiful weather. We truly enjoyed it.

Guest Post: Dr. Joy Miller

Letting go of College Freshmen…The transition

Walking a fine line between interest and intrusion? August-September are the transitional months for college students leaving their homes and moving to their “new home” at their chosen college campus. For many parents this is the first exposure to “letting go,” not only psychologically but also physically. This is the time we learn to guide and support our sons and daughters from a distance.
Adding to the difficulties, parents may soon realize that they may be financially supporting their child’s education, but are not privy to accessing any information about their child at their university.

Many parents have become frustrated when they are unable to access information concerning grades, student progress, or even legal offenses occurring on campuses.
After the radical college days of the late 60’s and early 70’s, many boomers pushed for legislation to protect their college records. In 1974 the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act was passed which limited the information that could be accessed by parents of students. Now many of these same boomers who supported this legislation in the mid 70’s, are finding themselves frustrated when they are unable to access information about their college student.

Colleges are sensing the frustration and are addressing parents issues by keeping parents in touch through newsletters discussing issues that pertain to parents and their student. Many universities are routinely sending newspapers to parent’s residences and trying to get parents involved in events on campus. Many colleges are setting up web sites for parents to access information about commonly asked questions and answers. But, there are ways to assist your student at college even if you are far away.

Here are some suggestions that were offered from a college counselor at Lehigh University:

· Help your child with problem solving. You can assist your son or daughter by helping them learn to solve their own problems (I know this one is a rough suggestion!)

. Instead of giving advise, try using open ended questioning that would elicit your student’s own insightful answers
. Now is the time to use key phrases like “It sounds like you have some concerns, what are you going to do about it?” “What ideas do you have to address this problem?” “Perhaps you should try working on it for a few days and if you can’t find a solution we could talk about it in a couple of days.” Remember you are “there” for your student by listening, and assisting their development of skills needed in later life.

· State your concerns. It is important that you be honest and tell your child your concerns, whether it is about their lack of studying, or concerns with drinking or partying. It is important to make a point without lecturing or preaching. It is essential that you state your concerns directly and be open about any conditions you may have about areas of concern.
· Don’t overburden them with your emotions. The transition is difficult for you and your student. Reach out and talk to a friend or counselor about your feelings of separation. It is important that your student knows that you care, but not that you can’t survive without them.
· Take advantage of e-mail. What a wonderful way to dialogue with your child. You can connect when you find free time and it is much cheaper than phone service. And of course, it is much faster than snail-mail. But, don’t forget the importance of sending a card or package through the mail—students love getting surprises in their college mail box.
· Find a time to connect. For those of us who love hearing our child’s voice, it is important to establish a mutually agreeable night for telephone calls. Many parents typically use Sunday nights as check-in nights. Whatever you establish, it helps everyone by knowing there is a set time to reconnect and update each other.

Just a quick suggestion for empty nesters: First of all, realize that your feelings of separation and loss are very normal. Accept the feelings and reach out and talk to other empty nesters to gain support. Secondly, focus on your goals that have not been attained. Now you have the time to look at your own life and accomplish some of those things that you put off. These as an opportunity to grow and look at your own dreams and make them happen.

Dr. Joy Miller is an internationally known licensed psychotherapist, professional trainer and author. You can find more articles from Dr. Joy at

-NewsAnchorMom Jen

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