Parenting

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Empty Nest


When a child leaves for college, the military, or just to live on his/her own, it's often difficult for a parent. Robin knows all too well how hard it can be to send a child to college. Dr. Phil and Robin did it with both of their sons, Jay and Jordan. Robin admits it's a difficult transition but can be a positive experience. 

Although the feeling of loss can be overwhelming, there are things you must realize about the situation and yourself in order to ultimately make peace with the change.

  • Know that it's normal to feel very emotional with the situation at first,  so don't keep yourself from feeling the emotions you have. "Cry when you need to cry. But then also give yourself a pat on the back and be proud that you've gotten them to this point," Robin says.

  • But eventually, you do have to come to terms with one thing: Your child is moving into another phase of his/her life, and you need to also.  If your child was filling the role of taking care of you mentally and emotionally, or if he/she was your constant companion, it's time to let your child start his/her own life. This will force you to reassess your life and find out who you really are and where your interests lie.

  • Understand that motherhood is an evolution. You might not be making everyday decisions for your child — like what to eat or what to wear — but you still have a role as a mother. You're now a tremendous resource for bigger life decisions involving career, choosing a mate, etc. You won't stop being a mother to your child, you just have to parent from a distance and in a different way. Dr. Phil recommends putting a different frame around your thoughts. "Say, 'I'm not going to stop being their mom, I'm just moving to the next phase. I'm going to start being their resource, I'm going to be their soft place to fall on the phone, on weekends and I'm going to become a mentor in a different phase in their life.' It's just ever changing. You're not going to stop being an involved mom, you're just going to change phases."

  • Remember that your son or daughter isn't moving away from you — they are moving toward his/her own life. That is something you should be proud of and admire. You contributed to their growth!  "I'm extremely proud of myself for how I've raised Jordan and prepared him for this," Robin explains. "It was so easy. He didn't have any fear in his eyes or any fear in his voice. He was excited. It was like every mother's answered prayer."

  • By continuing to call them continuously, demand visits, etc., you are taking a "pain pill" instead of dealing with your own issues. Realize that you are holding him/her back with this behavior just so that you can get a quick fix. Do you really want to sabotage your child's success by making him/her worry about how you are doing?

  • To help ease the transition, Robin recommends finding new ways to interact. For example, to help you deal with not physically seeing your child, consider getting computers with web cams. That way you can both see each other while you communicate online.

  • Start participating in activities that fill you up: volunteering, going to the movies, finding new hobbies. Find joy in things that don't involve your family. After all, you can't give your children what you don't have within yourself!


    Dr. Phil's Top Five Quick Fixes
  • Stop Being Morbid
  • Stop Lying in Bed
  • Stop Crying
  • Stop Calling Your Child Every Five Minutes
  • Start Doing the Things That You Want to Do!