Site Navigation

Empty Nesters and Communication with your Kids


In this day of Social Media and all the ways we can stay in contact with our kids, how do you effectively “cut that cord” when they move out?

As a admitted “helicopter mom”, this was a hard thing for me to do.  I had been there every step of their life and now they didn’t want me in it.  They have flown the nest and it’s time to move on.  You want to be their social planner still but now it’s time to be their coach and inspiration from afar.  Let them go but also always let them know that you will be there for them when they need.

If they are close enough for visits set boundaries and give each other 24′ notice or some other time frame you decide, for dropping in.  Especially if they are married.  You now have to respect their spouses time too.  We allowed our son’s to keep their house key because you never know when they might need to get in for something they left behind or you need them to help you with something.  BUT, we expect a phone call that they needed to come in.

For the College bound kids; I know that our friends dealt with hearing these words from your son or daughter after the first few weeks: “I don’t like it here. I want to come home.” As your heart breaks and a hundred thoughts go through your mind, remember that most parents face this problem. It’s natural for students to feel homesick in the first few weeks of college. For most students, it gets better in time, and once they have found new friends and a routine, the homesickness becomes a memory.

Resist the urge to rescue them, run to their aid, or book them a plane ticket (as much as you want them to come home). It may not be easy to listen to their pain, and even harder not to bring them back home, but for most freshmen, this passes quickly. All they need is a little reassurance that everything will be all right.

Tips for communication

  1.  Count to 10 before you call them.  Is it really that important to tell them about what you did today.
  2. Never let them know YOU are sad that they are gone.  This will only add to their stress of being out of the nest.
  3. Don’t check in with their friends or coworkers to see how they are doing.  It will always get back to them.  You may have done this when they were in grade school but now it’s time to take a step back and let them figure things out on their own.  Take it from me, this will only alienate you and your child.
  4. Make plans on how often you will talk to each other and how.
  5. Don’t call them, let them call you.  I know that often times when I call them and they are busy and I get the cold shoulder or conversations that are short, it hurts.  But you don’t know what is happening no their end and it just might not be a good time to call.  But you better believe if they call me I will drop what I am doing to answer.

Give them Space.

Not only does your young adult need space to create a life, you do too. Take some of that carpool, homework, or daily school prep time and use it to explore hobbies, join activities, make new friends, or reconnect with old ones. Filling that gap will help you move on and shorten the grieving time.

We all want “fix” things for our kids. Whether it’s a roommate clash, a professor issue, or any number of conflicts that arise at college or their job, but we need to resist the urge to “solve” the problem. Learn to listen as they vent and talk things out with them, helping them find a solution. When they make mistakes, don’t lecture. They are now adults who have to face the consequences of their actions. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but it’s all part of growing up.

Stay in touch with your kids electronically. Gone are the days of expensive phone calls. Social media, texts and video calls are free. Take advantage of them. If your child is away at college, suggest that they call you while walking to class (nothing else is competing for this time). Take an interest in their academic life (their friends probably don’t). When you do communicate, have open ears without too many questions.  They generally will tell you when they need the help or your advise.