You’ve watched them pack up their room, helped them load the car, and dropped them off at their new digs in Eugene. Their room at home is empty, the house is quieter, and you may be wondering, so what’s next?
Whether this is the first of several to go off to college — or you’re finally facing the “empty nest” — probably this is a transition time for you as a parent. Today, I will be offering you some tips for navigating the sudden change in your relationship with your student.
Problems and Challenges are Not A Flaw in The System — They are Stones on Path to Learning and Growth.
Your student will likely face a bewildering array of choices and challenges, from feeling lost and alone and having to make new friends to taking classes that actually require homework to navigating intimate relationships. Providing emotional support, while allowing your student to work their way through hard decisions and cope with challenges, will help your son or daughter begin to master the curriculum that is not in the course catalogue.
Provide Support While Encouraging Autonomy (or How to Be the One Your Student Calls in a Crisis)
Every parent-child relationship is different and there is no single way to navigate your student’s transition to adulthood. However, some wisdom may lie in what’s been called the middle path. For instance . . .
• Support and encourage without trying to control.
• Show interest in what your student is doing without being intrusive.
• Instead of focusing only on grades, students might appreciate it if you inquire more generally about their lives. For instance, how do they feel about living in the dorms, having to structure their day, or residing in Eugene?
• Be open to discussing major decisions that affect you and your student. Try to remain respectful of your student’s feelings and point of view, especially when you disagree.
Mistakes and Failures Teach as Much, if not More, than our Successes.
While you may know (or think you do) what’s best for your student, recognize that an important part of maturation and identity development is to make important choices and learn from one’s failures as well as successes. The road to discovering one’s talents and passions is rarely linear. Can you remember the path that led you to where you are today? See what I mean?
Many Paths Lead up The Mountain.
Each student is unique, physically, emotionally, socially and intellectually. What worked for one student may not work for this one. Discovering and expressing who one is offers the greatest challenge of adolescence and young adulthood, and also, the greatest reward. Share your pearls of wisdom, while recognizing that your son or daughter’s path may be different from your own.
The Empty Nest is a Nest Waiting to Be Filled.
If you are struggling with the sudden quiet in the house, perhaps this is a time to be bold and seize the next chapter of your life. What hidden curiosity or longing has called to you? Can you think of a better time than right now to see where this inner voice leads?
Finally, I tend to think that all of life is a university. Keeping alive the question, What am I supposed to learn from this experience? — will help you to stay balanced and keep your perspective when the unanticipated happens and life does not flow as you expected.
Mark B. Evans, Ph.D.