9 Tips to Handle Empty Nest Syndrome

Aug 21, 2014


The transition from high school student to college freshman can be as much of an adjustment for parents as it is for their children.

Parents have to allow their children more independence and greater responsibility. "If you're a 'helicopter parent' who micromanages your child's life, now is the time to land," says Dr. Karen Soren, director of adolescent medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital.

"More young adults are delaying independent living and coming home to live with parents after college, which shortens the empty nest period," notes Dr. Lisa Ipp, associate director of adolescent medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian/Phyllis and David Komansky Center for Children's Health.

Dr. Soren and Dr. Ipp offer tips for parents on how to make the college transition easier:

  • Start the transition early. Before your child goes away, give him or her more freedom, while your direct oversight is still possible.
  • Encourage your child to be active in school. When parents get that homesick call from their child, they should encourage him or her to get involved in campus activities.
  • Reignite your social life. It's normal to experience some sense of sadness or loss when a child goes away for college. Parents can cope with this feeling by spending more time with each other and with friends.
  • Keep in touch, but don't overdo it. When your child goes away to school, it may be an opportunity to develop a different kind of relationship. Recognize that their new independence is an important step.
  • The Sunday night phone call is no longer the norm. Intermittent phone calls, text messages and emails are now common, but it is important to recognize your child's new independence.
  • Keep your child's room intact for a while. Children appreciate a space of their own when they come home to visit. Parents often redecorate and reclaim some space, but ask your child first. See if you can give them another space to call their own.
  • Educate yourself on the school's policies toward drinking and other rules. Talk to your child about his or her responsibilities and safety. Problems like binge drinking start as early as the first weeks of school.
  • Talk to your child about money. Come to an understanding about who is paying for tuition, books, clothing, travel, phone and other expenses. Discuss whether they will take a part-time job and whether they will obtain a credit card (credit card companies aggressively market to college students).

If a parent or child has prolonged difficulty adjusting, seek a professional evaluation.

For more information, patients may call 866-NYP-NEWS or visit nyp.org.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, based in New York City, is one of the nation's largest and most comprehensive hospitals and a leading provider of inpatient, ambulatory, and preventive care in all areas of medicine. With some 2,600 beds and more that 6,500 affiliated physicians and 20,000 employees, NewYork-Presbyterian had more than 2 million visits in 2013, including close to 15,000 infant deliveries and more than 310,000 emergency department visits. NewYork-Presbyterian comprises six campuses: NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian/The Allen Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian/Westchester Division, and NewYork-Presbyterian/Lower Manhattan Hospital. The hospital is also closely affiliated with NewYork-Presbyterian/Lawrence Hospital in Bronxville. NewYork-Presbyterian is the #1 hospital in the New York metropolitan area and is consistently named to the U.S. News & World Report Honor Roll of best hospitals in the nation. Affiliated with two world-renowned medical schools, Weill Cornell Medical College and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, NewYork-Presbyterian is committed to excellence in patient care, research, education, and community service.

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