Straight Talk: Panelists send 'care package' to empty-nest mom

By: Lauren Forcella
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Dear Straight Talk: My husband and I raised a wonderful son who has recently left for college. I had no idea how bowled over by the “empty nest” syndrome I would be. After work I stagger around like a zombie lost on what to buy at the store or make for dinner. Often I am fighting back tears. I know this isn’t good and I was clearly overly emotional and helpful prior to his leaving, to the point that he was annoyed with me and couldn’t wait to get out of here. Now I don’t know how often to phone or how often I should expect him to phone me. As you see, I’m having a really hard time. I love your column and your panel is so nice and level-headed maybe they can help me with this. ~Mom from Santa Rosa Dear Mom: I’m thrilled with the panelists, too. Here is their “care package” to you. Be mindful that sadness is a natural and appropriate response to loss. You don’t want to guilt-trip your son with it, but emoting to friends and appropriate others will help it pass naturally. Scot, 22, San Luis Obispo: Leaving for college is extremely stressful and it’s easy to get irritated with a mother making sure you have everything ready. But the first time I couldn’t just walk into the kitchen for a favorite snack my mother always stocked, I appreciated her. We are always told to be independent and go to college, but then the day comes and you realize how under-prepared you are. It’s almost embarrassing how much your parents did for you, especially when you thought you were so grown up. Definitely call occasionally so he knows you’re there. Tell him you’re proud of him and send him his favorite snacks. When my mom first sent care packages and called at “supposedly” inopportune times, I was embarrassed that she didn’t think I could do it alone. But soon I realized those little things helped. My friends enjoyed the care packages, too. Chris, 21, San Pedro: My mom did the same thing before I moved out — then she called daily, annoying me a bit with her concerns. But you are just loving your son like a good mother should and he will soon realize that. I guarantee he is having a great time so don’t call more than two or three times a week. Cook his favorite meals when he comes home and he’ll be calling more and more. Katelyn, 14, Huntington Beach: Studies show that pets can raise the mood of the depressed. It’s like having a second child, except they never grow up. Betsy, 21, Durham, NH: I was the youngest of four so I definitely know how it feels to be left. Then when I left, I was more worried about my mom then she was. My dad had passed away so that added to my concern. She constantly assures me that she’s fine but I visit her more than most college students. She never complains about her empty nest but when my sisters and I gather at her home, you can tell she’s in her prime. Farren, 22, Redding: When I left for college, I was the one who felt like a zombie. To make things worse, people told my mom to give me space and not call me! If you and your son have a close relationship, by all means call once or twice a week. I talked to my mom several times a day! What helped me adjust was keeping busy and connecting with others who were homesick. Expressing out loud about your empty nest should help settle your feelings. You might also consider a new hobby or activity. To ask a question or inquire about being a youth panelist, visit or write P.O. Box 963 Fair Oaks, CA 95628.