As kids go to college, parents face empty nests

Image 1 of 3

Rhonda and Corby Carter's house used to be full of kids, but now it's pretty quiet.

First there were Corby's two daughters, now grown, and then Cody, the baseball-loving, conscientious student who is now proud and excited to begin life as a college student at Michigan State. But amid everyone's anticipation, even though you prepare a lifetime for that goodbye -- it still catches you off guard. 

Lori Edelson is a clinical social worker who says it's normal for parents to feel sad.

"It's loss. It's something that you've sort of anticipated for 18 years and yet, at the same time when it happens, there's a complete change in your household. It's quieter; they're gone; their presence, the energy," she says.

There is pain in no longer feeling needed every day as a parent -- and fearing the freedom your child is experiencing.

"I said [to Cody] you have to create your own boundaries and you have to put expectations on yourself and your behavior and your performance, because there's not someone there babysitting you," Corby says.

Eventually, coping with the loss and anxiety gets easier, and Cody will be back home for a visit. But, everyone knows the relationship between parents and children never goes back to being the same.

And as sad as that is, parents need to not share our struggle with our kids.

"We don't want to let our kids to know how difficult it is for us because we don't want them to feel responsible for taking care of our emotional needs," Edelson says.

According to the experts, if your sadness lingers for more than a few months you may want to look into professional counseling to help ease the transition.