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Empty Nester… When your babies start their journey from the nest

By Amy Schumacher

Every parent see’s the great potential of their children from the moment they look upon their faces for the first time. We raise them to be strong and independent, to have compassion and show empathy, all knowing that someday they will fly from the family nest and start their journey… they begin living on their own, making their own decisions, and hopefully making their mark on the world. Where does that leave the moms and dads? What do we do once our nest, our comfortable, happy and safe nest is empty?

Most students leave for college in August so the parents have that last summer to get intimate with being alone, to celebrate the upcoming flight of their children, to take that last family vacation. Parents sit and reflect on how they have raised their children, the successes they have seen and we envision a future where they are happy and healthy and living life to the fullest… and remembering all the life lessons we have taught them.

For some parents, the parents of athletes, things might be a little different. The students may have to check into college a little earlier than the other students. This can be beneficial to the student/athlete because they have additional time to get associated with the campus, the coach and fellow teammates and mostly they have time to miss home before all the rigor of full classes as well as hours and hours of practices begin for them.

As parents we are still teaching our children lessons even on the days that we move them onto campus and help them through scheduling classes and organizing their busy schedules, we teach them to be strong in the face of fear, in the face of failure. We teach them that the sky is the limit but the time has come for them to jump… and then we let go of their hand and we hold our own tears until we can’t see them in the rearview mirror before we let them roll. From personal experience, the tears continued for the six hour drive home. No shame. We love our children, we will miss them every day but we still have a job to do, we still have to be there for every phone call, every problem, every question, and we have to be there to tell them that they can do it, they won’t fail, that they are strong and they are smart… and then remind them to always be kind!

The entire experience is an eye opener and what we learn needs to be shared so a list has been provided below to assist any parents who are working through this same process.

Make lists – create a list of questions, a list of supplies needed, a list of things you need to pack and things you need to purchase. Lists will keep you organized and moving through the process and concentrating on all that needs to be done.

Make doctor appointments – get a physical and have it in your files, see the eye doctor, see the dentist. Any doctors that your child sees on a normal basis should be visited before you leave and should be updated on your child’s personal records with their family doctors. Don’t forget to schedule a haircut.

Get copies of important documents – although this may cost a little extra it will save a great deal of effort when your child is calling needing something and you try to make the connections at that time. Request a copy of their birth certificate, their social security card, any college class transcripts, their high school transcripts, list of prescriptions and how they should be taken. You can send these all with your student either in a simple folder or you can purchase a fireproof safe that can also store any cash they will have as well as any important jewelry.

Storage solutions – minimizing clothes and personal items is important because it is likely that there will not be enough room provided for more than necessary. A shower caddie is very important. Usually four people will be sharing one bathroom and you don’t want your child sharing razors so make sure they carry these things in and back out with them. Things like this should no longer be communal, safety first.

Make contact with your roommates – it’s very easy to set up a group chat and once you have then the group can put your lists to work and organize who will be responsible for bringing specific items. This can save time and money… something we all need to do since we are now paying for college.

Plan to clean the dorm or apartment and the bathroom when you arrive. Things will be empty but they will not be clean and it will give you a sense of peace knowing you cleaned it to your standards.

Last but not least, take time to tour the campus and photograph your child. Find somewhere that your child feels “happy” on the college campus or in the surrounding town. They are going to need to have someplace where they can go to decompress from their new life. We found a pet store that you can visit all the puppies and kittens as often as you like and take them into cubicles to play with them. The company felt it was good for the pets to interact with people but it was also so good for the stressed teen who just needed to smile.

These days mark the beginning of a beautiful future and even though your nest may be empty, the photos will help your heart to remain full.

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