Greenwich therapist looks to help parents with empty nesting

Greenwich psychotherapist Wendy Aronsson has written her first book to help parents deal with the empty nest after their children go to college. —Ken Borsuk

Greenwich psychotherapist Wendy Aronsson has written her first book to help parents deal with the empty nest after their children go to college. —Ken Borsuk

Summer might finally be around the corner, but blink and all of a sudden it’s time for fall and kids preparing for their first year in college.

While a lot of focus goes into the transition of teenagers from the structure of living at home to suddenly being on their own for the first time, what about the parents? What about those who are in an empty nest for the first time with no children around after years of everyday parenting and no idea what they are going to do with their lives? Greenwich’s Wendy Aronsson has made this the subject of her just-released first book, Refeathering the Empty Nest: Life After the Children Leave.

The book just hit stores and the licensed psychotherapist, who has decades of experience in her own practice in Greenwich, is excited by the release, because this is not just practical advice for parents, it also is based upon her experiences as a parent whose children have left the house for college.

“It was when I was in preparation to become an empty nester that I started writing it,” Ms. Aronsson said, describing the two-year process of putting the book together. “I think this is an important topic. Parents today are so invested in their children and are laser-focused on them. In the book I call this precision parenting, which is different from what’s called helicopter parents who hover over their children and take over their lives. This kind of parent is very thoughtful and mindful.”

Ms. Aronsson said precision parents have approached their family life like a career, reading books on how to be the best parents they can be. But when the children go off to college, it leaves a void for the parents after they have invested so much in seeing their children develop.

“For 18-plus years, they have had a profession of parenting, but all of a sudden their job description changes,” Ms. Aronsson said. “A shift happens, and when the youngest child leaves the nest it impacts the family 360 degrees. That means how we parent our children, how we relate to our spouse or if you’re single it means that you now have more time to date or be adventurous. It also impacts how we relate to our careers and how we spend our spare time.”

While this does bring about big changes for parents, Ms. Aronsson said, it can also provide new opportunities.

“It can be very exciting,” Ms. Aronsson said. “It’s a time for personal growth and for parents to take stock in all their hard work and know that the next stages ahead of them are exciting because they are going to be different. Nothing will replace where we were when we were front and center as parents, but there’s a lot to look forward to. A lot of people share this challenge and this struggle. It doesn’t have to be devastating. It’s a challenge, and with challenge comes opportunities.”

Ms. Aronsson said her own experience with seeing two sons out of the house and into college helped her in writing the book. While she already possessed the clinical perspective through her years of practicing, she was able to add in a more personal touch, which she tries to weave in throughout the book. It is not meant to be a memoir. Ms. Aronsson based the book on interviews with people, allowing parents to share their experiences and expertise to show the variety of ways an empty nest can have an impact.

“I think my own experience made me more sensitive about the impact it may have, but when you talk about this it’s really more of an evolving nest than an empty nest,” Ms. Aronsson said. “Not everybody goes through this horrible stage of their life. Sometimes it’s a really exciting, adventuresome stage. So having gone through this myself, I feel I’m more aware of the possibilities.”

Ms. Aronsson’s research included questionnaires that were distributed across the country both online and through volunteer organizations. She put the age range of most of the respondents between 40 and 65 years old, meaning she was talking not just to people going through the experience now but also to those who have done it and now have had time to reflect upon it.

Ms. Aronsson did not limit her view just to mothers, as she also sought the impact on fathers. What she found was that the impact typically was felt most by stay-at-home parents, which covers both men and women, because they are on the “front line” and having to organize day in and day out. There were obviously cases where both the father and mother were working and there was no stay-at-home parent, but even in those situations, Ms. Aronsson said, there was one parent who typically took the lead on family issues, meaning that would be the person who felt it most.

By participating in the comments section of this site you are agreeing to our Privacy Policy and User Agreement

© Hersam Acorn. All rights reserved. The Greenwich Post, 10 Corbin Drive, Floor 3, Darien, CT 06820

Designed by WPSHOWER

Powered by WordPress