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Empty Nest Syndrome For Younger Siblings: It's REAL

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When older siblings leave for college, the loneliness can be intense for the one left behind.

The day is fast approaching. The day that my youngest child has been dreading.

The day that both of his older brothers leave for college and he’s left alone ... with us.

He’s not happy about it.

He absolutely loves his older brothers. He loves their company. He loves their companionship. He loves the way they spend time together. He loves a good game of Super Smash Bros. He even loves being rejected by them. Any kind of attention is good attention.

He’s never been an “only” and has no desire for this day to ever get here. I tried to make him feel better when I said, “honey, don’t worry. You’ll have our complete, undivided attention.” That went over like a lead balloon.

I’m sure he’ll come to appreciate some positive things about being the only kid in the house at some point. More undivided attention will probably be pretty good at times, as well the occasional longer, meaningful and uninterrupted conversation.

As the day creeps up, I’m also keenly aware of my thoughts about the situation.

It was so strange when the first one went off to university. It really changed the family dynamics. The younger two brothers became closer, the youngest actually became funnier and the food bills went down.

I also realized how important it was to be super clear about communication expectations. I had to eventually spell it out that calling or Skyping home once a week was non-negotiable. Of course, an unsolicited text would be lovely too. (But that might be asking too much.)

Overall, my three sons became closer.

This fact warms my heart beyond belief. I come from a family of five sisters and fully appreciate the unique, same-sex sibling thing.

So, here my youngest son and I are, on the brink of another big family change.

We’re both thinking about how different things will be. We’re both not quite ready to get our heads around the positives. Not yet, but we will get there.

We’re both wondering how we will maintain closeness when a big, giant exciting new adventure is on the horizon … and we’re not a part of it.

My husband seems to be doing OK. A little more detached and more “go with the flow” I guess. 

I’m clearly identifying with my youngest son’s sense of loss.

This is part of the classic “midlife” transition for parents, but it's also just as big of a transition for younger siblings. The important thing is to keep the lines of communication open — and remember that this is a special time for the two of us.

(Of course, we’re also rifling through our calendars almost daily to plan the next road trip out to campus for a visit.)


This article was originally published at Midlife Unplugged Blog. Reprinted with permission from the author.


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