Freshman 101: Ten Ways to Enjoy the Empty Nest and Stay Connected When Your Kid Moves Out

“A bird in the hand is…
a good way to get bird flu.”
-Norm Macdonald

I love jokes with surprise endings. In the setup, the comedian creates tension by referring to something that we’re all familiar with. We know where the story should be going but don’t yet know how they’re going to make it funny. In the punchline, they deliver the surprise twist and we (hopefully) laugh as the tension gets released. Psychologists refer to this as the Incongruity Theory of Humor.

Incongruent humor can be especially good in stressful times- like sending a kid off to college and/or finding ourselves with an empty nest. After 20 years of watching parents deal with children going off to college, I have a few humorous tips to help you find the bright side of letting go.

Stock Up on Tissues: You’ll probably need them for the first few weeks when you walk past their empty room. You’ll need even more when you realize how much you’re saving on groceries.

  1. Embrace the Empty Nest: The change in routine can come with sense of loss. But now you can finally walk around the house in your underwear without teenage eye rolls. Celebrate the freedom!
  2. Brush up on your emoji game: A well-placed 🥺 can mean the difference between a one-word reply and an actual conversation. Plus, imagine how much cooler you’ll sound on your favorite Taylor Swift forum.
  3. Care Packages are the Way to a College Student’s Heart: Send them a care package with homemade cookies, instant noodles, and a reminder that you still exist. Getting an actual call from your kid is like fishing; you need the right bait.
  4. Resist the Urge to Spy: No following them with a Finsta (fake Instagram account). Trust that you’ve raised them well enough to make (mostly) good decisions. Or you can have your best friend spy on them and give you with weekly reports.
  5. Rediscover Hobbies: Remember the activities you loved before you had kids? Well, it’s time to get tickets for Warped Tour and become a (functional) alcoholic again. It’s not a mid-life crisis if you’re gonna live forever!
  6. Be Ready for All-Night Texts: Why is it that 2 AM brings the most profound realizations or the most trivial questions. Prep in advance with a set of embarrassing replies so you can quickly break them of this habit.
  7. Accept They’ll Change: They might come back with new ideas, different tastes, or a new fashion sense. Try copying their style so they can truly appreciate just how cool that new look really is. Nothing says “rizz” quite like a parent adopting your style.

Remember, this is a big step for both of you. You’ve spent years preparing them for this moment. Now, let them fly – and enjoy the quieter, nest they’ve left behind.

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