By Natalie Caine, M.A.
NABBW’s Associate for Life in Transition

natalie caine colorWhether you are a first time parent of a college student or an experienced one, as Spring Break arrives, it’s likely you are planning their favorite meals and watching the clock, hoping their plane or car arrives on time.

You’re anxious to have your family finally be “all together again.” And you can’t wait to finally see their faces!

Meanwhile, your favorite college student likely has a totally different set of goals.

I remember a group of college kids shared with me that they have been so stressed with exams, and social life.

What they want when they get home is SLEEP and good food.

  • They are excited to see their family and friends.
  • They aren’t looking forward to being asked a lot of questions or schedules of what parents think they should be doing while home.
  • They wonder if their home town, old high school relationships, are the same or different now that all of them have been away at college.
  • They also feel the competition.
  • One shared his stress is that his parents would nag about his gaining weight. He is a stress eater.
  • Another worried her grades would be criticized and her “lack of decision making about career,” would cause fights.

Parents shared that they know they ask too many questions and just can’t seem to stop themselves. They laughed and said, “we will do something stupid like saying, put on a sweater; it gets cold, later,” when they truly do know their kids don’t need a mommy telling them how to dress.

Parents want time with their kids and their kids want time with their friends, as well.

Unrealistic expectations need a reality check. You know who you are and you know your kids. You forget to check in with what punches your buttons and theirs until after the fall. Who doesn’t want a happy vacation and time together rather than remembering the arguments? Differences will be on display. I AM SORRY. REALLY I AM… I SEE IT NOW. I WISH I HAD DONE THAT DIFFERENTLY WITH YOU TODAY. SORRY.

Siblings want attention. Pets want to play. It is an active house. You love that vibrant energy!

As it gets closer to hugging GOODBYE, and the break ends, little arguments arrive. “I didn’t ask you to do all that work for me while I was home. You wanted to do it. Well, true, and I just wanted you to show a little thanks and clean your room before you left.” Separation anxiety arrives uninvited.

One parent shared with me that she could hear in her head, “Wait, wait, just one more hug, just one more thing,” as she followed her daughter out the door. And at the same time, she knew she was overspent from being MOM and that she was ready for some quiet time.

During our support group, I had the parents talk about the scenarios in their heads about their kids coming home and the goodbye scenes. Awareness. It is comforting for parents to be with other parents and not feel alone on this changing role journey.

  • Kids forget to say how much they appreciate and love their parents. They do.
  • Parents forget to trust their kids, to honor their style of connecting with them.
  • Parents have a hard time putting the TEACHER hat in the basement.

It isn’t easy to shift a role that they have happily played for years. They are intellectually aware that it is time to let THE KIDS lead and for them to take the observer role more often. But that doesn’t necessarily make it easy for parent to make this transition…

Change. It isn’t easy and it is inevitable.

I still remember practicing my new role during SPRING BREAK and just feeling it be a little too tight, if you know what I mean. A parent is a parent. You will make mistakes at every age of your kids’ life. Your kids will make mistakes with you. All of you will have those happy moments at the table and those rolling of the eyes. You wouldn’t PASS on being FAMILY. Kids are some of your BEST LIFE TEACHERS and you hope you are for them, as well.

Enjoy the gathering and plan something nurturing for yourself after you WAVE GOODBYE. Remember, love is rooted.

Take good care,
Natalie
Natalie Caine M.A.

Life In Transition, What’s Next?
Empty Nest Support Services
(800) 446-3310 or (310) 454-0040
Los Angeles

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Natalie Caine is the founder of Empty Nest Support Services. When her daughter was a senior in high school, she realized that as a soon-to-be “empty nester,” she would be undergoing a major life shift. Not wanting to confront this transition alone nor have her many friends face this abyss without strong support, she created a support services group, which quickly grew into a new career and an exciting full-time business.