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Empty Nest Syndrome: Even Siblings Get the Blues

4 ways to help younger siblings deal with the departure of college kids.


Empty nest syndrome is tough, but your nest needn’t be completely empty for you to feel a powerful sense of loss. In fact, parents with younger kids still at home may find themselves dealing not only with their own sorrow, but an entire family on an emotional rollercoaster. Getting access to the coveted big brother room does not always make up for the grief of losing, even temporarily, a beloved older sib. Here are four ways to help younger children work through their feelings.


  • A little communication and TLC goes a long way with younger siblings. Devote extra time to things you can do together, but also make a point of talking about how much you all miss the older child. Remind little sibs that the older one misses them too. Encourage them to phone or text each other (and then remember not to shriek when the first month's cell phone bill arrives).
  • Encourage the younger siblings to write notes or send funny cards. Let them participate in the cookie baking and care package packaging. (Those cookies need quality testing, you know.)
  • If distance or expense is not an insurmountable issue, take the younger sibling(s) to visit. Spending a night in the dorms is a grand adventure for teenaged siblings (although you should have a frank talk with your older child to make sure it’s not too adventuresome). Or, have your new college freshman stay with you at a hotel for the weekend.
  • And when you send your new freshman off to college and give her the typical framed photograph of the family for her dorm room, put a framed copy in her siblings’ rooms back home too.
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