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The Not-So-Empty Nest

Many thought they’d be entering a new phase of life this fall: the Empty Nest. Distance learning and working from home have pretty much eliminated that option for a while yet.   

If you have a student staying home instead of heading to their first year on campus, it might be a tricky time. It will be trickier than it was while they were finishing high school because expectations for college and university courses are vastly different – and without the ability to meet with profs, TA’s and classmates, your student will be thrown into a whole new learning curve – without all the fun of living away from home for the first time. It’ll take some time to get used to the new roles  

If you have students in upper years, or grads who need to return home, it’s going to be even trickier. They’re used to living their own life, as an adult, so the dynamic is going to be different than when they previously lived at home. Here are some thoughts on navigating a Not-So-Empty Nest.

Adulting 101

First-year students are often surprised by how much time “life” takes – doing laundry, paying bills, buying texbooks, picking up items from the pharmacy, getting (or replacing lost) ID/keys, grocery shopping, cooking, etc. – things that may have previously been done by someone else. While it’s sad to see kids leave home, these are some of the elements that parents might view as the upside of an empty nest.   

Our current situation won’t last forever (even if it feels like it will right now), so, as parenting guru Alyson Shafer says: “TTFT” (Take Time for Training). A bootcamp on “Adulting 101” might be a great way to nudge kids along that path to independence.  Doing laundry might just be the tip of that iceberg, but it is a great place to start (how many kids know why you don’t put red t-shirts in with white towels?).

Cooking: More Than Just A Pot & Pan 

18 years x 365 days x 3 meals a day = 19,710 times (give or take) a student will be fed before they head off to school.  If there’s one task most parents would love a break from, it’s meal making. Because it’s not just about the cooking – it’s the planning, shopping and prepping that can become mind-numbingly tedious. 

Clearly this is a widespread challenge because a quick Google search for “meal prep ideas” returns 321 million results!

Here are some places to point your student to start taking on some of the cooking:

Breaking Curfews

One of the biggest frustrations for students “stuck” at home will be the lost opportunity to do what they want, when they want. That feeling of “ahhhhh, I can stay up till 5:00 am, sleep till noon and nobody’s the wiser” will have to wait a little bit longer.  Parents will remember their own “what my parents don’t know won’t hurt them” experiences from their early days out of the nest.

It’s tough to move into a new phase with different rules when your student’s still in their childhood room and life has found a certain rhythm. We looked for articles to help – but so far, there aren’t any that don’t include the word “Boomerang Kids,” which really doesn’t fit our new reality.

So, we’ll refrain from weighing in with any opinions, as it’s likely the trickiest to navigate – for both sides of the discussion, but we would love to hear what is working for you!

Humour Is The Best Medicine  

We’re all feeling weary. This is really hard. When you feel like the walls are closing in, try to find the humour in your new reality. For example: Laugh Therapy – it’s a thing, and it works. Here’s a site with some fancy science on the topic: SkillsYouNeed. For a quick fix of Laugh Therapy, check out some good clean Quebecois humour at the Just for Laughs YouTube channel.


We’d love to hear how you’re managing. Please share at the HigherEdPoints Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn social sites and let us know how you’re handling your Not-So-Empty Nest.


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