As young people head to university, psychotherapist Lucy Beresford gives tips on how parents can deal with missing their kids.
My only daughter has just started university and I feel lost without her. What’s the best way to cope with missing her so much?
Psychotherapist Lucy Beresford, author of Happy Relationships at Home, Work and Play (McGraw-Hill Professional, £13.99), says: “The key to thriving once a child has left home is to throw yourself into some new activities.
“I know of people who’ve volunteered to walk a dog (check out borrowmydoggy.com) as a way of getting out of the house. You meet other dog walkers, start new conversations and make new friends. Plus, getting out in the fresh air and taking gentle exercise boosts your mood.
“Or you might consider walking into a local charity shop and volunteering one day a week. Or taking up a new hobby or class. Doing new things brings you sparkling new energy, and it also prevents you from dwelling on the absence of your child, which would happen if you simply tried to do activities you might have done together.
“It’s ok to miss your daughter, but try to give her space to enjoy her new university experiences. She won’t want to be reminded of your sadness or frustration – in fact this might actively push her away. So by all means write once a week (receiving a hand-written letter is such a joy), but make sure you fill it with news of all you’re doing, and the people you’re meeting. A chatty letter from you will make her feel less guilty and will give you another reason to fill your diary, so you have lots to talk about.
“You don’t say whether you’re with your daughter’s father, but this ‘empty nest’ time is also important for you to reconnect with your partner as a couple. Plan activities together and rediscover your intimate connection with each other. And if you’re not in a relationship, now is the perfect time for you to gently explore that aspect of your life.
“And if you notice any resistance to any of my suggestions, look within to check whether there’s any anger at this new situation, or resentment at your daughter having new freedoms or you feeling abandoned by her. Talk perhaps to a professional about these feelings of loss, so you can move forward to this next phase of your life, with confidence and excitement.”