Embracing an empty nest

Ways to cope when the kids move out

Published On: Aug 22 2013 10:04:39 PM EDT   Updated On: Aug 22 2013 10:40:00 PM EDT

If you've sent your youngest or only child off to college, you have an empty nest.  Some parents feel sad and have a tough time dealing with it  But Dr. Mike McKee, a psychologist at Cleveland Clinic, says you need to focus on the positives.

"It's not a bad thing. What it means is you've done your job right. Your child has done well in school. They're going off to college, that's the way it's supposed to be," he said.

McKee says if you have an only child, you're  a single parent, or you were a stay-at-home parent, an empty nest may be more difficult to face.  He recommends trying to find caregiving activities to help others or volunteer opportunities to fill your time.  McKee also says you can try something new and start caring more for yourself.

"I try and get parents who are alone for the first time to really up their exercise program because if there's one thing that you can do that's guaranteed to help physically, emotionally, cognitively that's increase your exercise program within sensible limits," McKee explained.

While some may see a child moving on as depressing, McKee says it's actually an opportunity to reconnect for married couples.

He explained, "The studies I find more convincing actually show that when the first child is born marital satisfaction, not necessarily family satisfaction, but marital satisfaction goes down and it stays down until the empty nest when the last child leaves home it goes up again. Guess what? The parents have more time for each other!"

McKee says it's still important to be involved in your child's life after they've left for school. he suggests using tools from your child's world like texting and social media to stay connected.