Dealing with Empty Nests and Challenges of College-Aged Children

The empty nest, that sense of loss that can happen when your children grow up and leave home, is often associated with mothers. Much of what is written about this stage of life is aimed at women, but men can feel a profound sense of loss as well when their children become adults. In fact, in some cases, it can hit men harder because they may not expect it. Below are some of the things you may have to cope with and tips for dealing with them as your children gain more independence.

Helping Financially

For many parents and their young adult children, financial independence is not something that happens overnight. Your children may continue to need financial help with everything from health insurance, to putting down a deposit on their first apartment, to buying a car or a home, and more. There are two separate elements to giving financial help, the emotional part, and the money part. For the former, it’s important that you and your child talk about help and what it means.

Are there strings attached? If you’re paying for something, do you feel as though you have a right to some input into that or other aspects of your child’s life? How does your child feel about that? How will this affect your relationship overall? As for the financial side of things, consider what you can afford and what kind of risks you may be taking. One of the biggest types of financial assistance parents may be offering at this point is help with college costs. There are several different ways to do this, but if you are a homeowner, you may want to consider a HELOC to pay for college. Few parents have enough savings to cover the high cost of college, and with a HELOC, they don’t have to dip into their retirement savings.

Preparing for the Future

Knowing ahead of time that you may suffer from empty nest syndrome can help you prevent the worst of it. If you are still with the other parent, you may need to try to reconnect. For many years, you have been focused on your family life, and without that to anchor you, you might find that you have grown apart. While this does lead to the end of some relationships, it doesn’t have to.

Anticipating this can make it less surprising and destabilizing if it does happen. It can also give you the opportunity to take steps to prevent it by starting to connect again while the kids are still at home. Talk to one another about your interests and your dreams for the future. Try to create a shared vision of what life will be like in the years ahead. Whether you are single or partnered, think about what you want as well. What are some interests you’d like to spend more time or skills you’d like to develop?

Understanding the Emotions

All the preparation described above doesn’t mean that you won’t feel any sadness when your children move out. It’s important to understand that if you do feel these things, it doesn’t mean that something is wrong. In fact, it is a strong indication that you genuinely enjoyed life with your children at home. In addition, it doesn’t mean that you don’t value the fact that your child is becoming independent. It’s normal to miss them even while being excited that they are moving on to a new and exciting part of their life. This change can cause a bit of an emotional rollercoaster so be sure to exercise patience when dealing with difficult family members and have empathy for the fact that they too are going through a change.

Connect with Others

Another reason that the empty nest can be particularly tough on men is because they are more likely to have been taught to conceal their feelings than women have. It can help to open up to your partner or other fathers about your emotions. However, even if this is not something that feels comfortable, you can still try to connect more to other people. You might want to consider trying to deepen some friendships or turn an acquaintance into a friend. You could also look to mentoring a younger person in your workplace or elsewhere, which would give you the opportunity to take on an important role in their life and share your wisdom and experience.



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Emma covers dating and relationships for Unfinished Man, bringing a witty woman's perspective to her writing. She empowers independent women to pursue fulfillment in life and love. Emma draws on her adventures in modern romance and passion for self-improvement to deliver relatable advice.

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