All Grown Up and Gone for Good? Advice on Empty-Nest Syndrome From NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital Physicians

Tips on Redecorating Rooms, Credit Cards, Keeping in Touch and More

Jul 16, 2007


Your high school graduate is off to college to embark on a newly independent life. But they're not the only one making a transition: parents too face emotional and lifestyle adjustments. With advice on empty nest syndrome and the college transition, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital physicians offer expert tips on topics including, redecorating your child's room, credit cards, keeping in touch and more.

"It's normal to experience some sense of sadness or loss when your child goes away for college," says Dr. Amy Silverman, child and adolescent psychiatrist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Westchester Division and assistant professor of psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College. "I recommend spending time with your spouse or friends, especially those who have gone through the same experience. Talk about your feelings, but also about your interests and goals."

"For your college-bound child, the goal is transitioning them into greater independence and responsibility. If you're a so-called helicopter parent who micromanages your child's life, now's the time to land," says Dr. Karen Soren, director of adolescent health services at Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian and associate clinical professor of pediatrics and public health at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. "Even before they go away, give your child more freedom, while your direct oversight is still possible."

Drs. Silverman and Soren offer more tips on making the college transition easier, including:

  • 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 cell phone calls and e-mails are now common.
  • 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 their responsibilities and their 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, etc. Discuss whether they will take a part-time job or use a credit card (credit card companies aggressively market to college students).
  • Read everything that the school sends you. Stay informed. And, if there's a parents' visiting day, go.
  • If parent or child has prolonged difficulty adjusting, they should seek professional evaluation.

For more information, patients may call 866-NYP-NEWS.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital – based in New York City – is the nation's largest not-for-profit, non-sectarian hospital, with 2,335 beds. It provides state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory and preventive care in all areas of medicine at five major centers: NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Allen Pavilion and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division. One of the largest and most comprehensive health-care institutions in the world, the Hospital is committed to excellence in patient care, research, education, and community service. It ranks sixth in U.S.News & World Report's guide to "America's Best Hospitals," ranks first on New York magazine's "Best Hospitals" survey, has the greatest number of physicians listed in New York magazine's "Best Doctors" issue, and is included among Solucient's top 15 major teaching hospitals. The Hospital is ranked with among the lowest mortality rates for heart attack and heart failure in the country, according to a 2007 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) report card. The Hospital has academic affiliations with two of the nation's leading medical colleges: Weill Cornell Medical College and Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.

Media Contact:

Gloria Chin