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Caroline Rules: Empty Nest

How to Deal with “Empty Nest Syndrome”

Caroline Manzo puts the real in The Real Housewives of New Jersey, and her fans relate to the reality star's no-nonsense attitude, focus on family and, above all, abundant common sense. Check back at Glo every Monday as Caroline helps solve your most pressing dilemmas.

The Dilemma: It's nearing the end of September, which means most of our kids have gone back to school. For some parents, however, this year isn't just back-to-school like usual: Their kids have gone off to college, making their houses seem a little, well, empty. How does a parent cope with this so-called “empty nest syndrome”? Is it best to make a clean break from your child so he or she can establish independence? How often should you call to check in? What's the proper way to keep a strong parent/child bond now that your child is grown up and on his or her own?

Caroline's Ruling: Oh brother, can I relate to this! Facing “empty nest syndrome” has proven to be one of my biggest challenges to date.

Parenthood is the only job that is 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, with no sick days, vacation or retirement plan. It's also the most rewarding job you'll ever have in your life. The pay? A lifetime of smiles, hugs, tears, laughter, successes, failures, heartaches, triumphs, arguments, forgiveness and love, love, love. Your life revolves around the nurturing and caring of this child, and then one day — POOF — they're leaving you.

Well, isn't that the way it should be? Don't we raise our children to become independent and ultimately leave us? The answer is yes, we know it to be true, but we don't want to accept it! I'm going to share with you what I have said to myself time and time again: Deal with it! (I say that with a wink, a smile and a hug.) This is part of the process in the “crazy” we've come to know as life! Your heart may ache for the sense of loss you're feeling, but doesn't it burst with pride too? Embrace the pride! Pat yourself on the back for a job well done!

One other thing: Your child may be out of sight, but he or she will never be out of mind. Give him/her a chance to feel their independence, but establish some ground rules. Keep the lines of communication open. Make them understand that being away from home and out of eyesight doesn't give them license to run amok, especially if they're in college and you're paying the tuition!

They have a responsibility to do their best out of respect for your financial sacrifice and, more importantly, their future. Don't smother them! Let them grow, but keep a watchful eye. Remember, mistakes are life's fertilizer, and hopefully your son or daughter will become stronger and wiser from the experience.

Now let's talk about you! I have a secret: I met someone I really like this year. Her name is Caroline Manzo. She's been going by the name of “Maaaaaaa!!!” for 24 years.

I found her in the kitchen feeling sorry for herself. I told her to snap out of it and deal with it. Guess what? She listened. Do you get what I'm saying? Reintroduce yourself to you. Find out what makes you tick, what makes you smile, and go with it! It could be volunteer work, going back to school, getting fit, joining a social club, reentering the workforce — the options are endless. Be a little selfish; you've earned it. You may find your new best friend in yourself. Celebrate her and show her off to the world!

One final note: Your children never leave you. They are forever in your heart and mind and will always be “your babies.” The tides change and so does the relationship. But the bond will never be broken. (Isn't that what family is all about?) Hugs and kisses to all you empty-nesters. I feel your pain.

  • From marriage dilemmas to family issues, Caroline's got the answers!

    Photo by Michael T. Greco
Caroline Rules: Empty Nest
How to Deal with “Empty Nest Syndrome”
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