I’m Dreaming of My Kids This Christmas

Tips on dealing with an empty nest this holiday.

Posted Dec 29, 2019

As a child psychiatrist who deals with teens and college students all the time, I am often asked questions from parents who are worried when their kids won’t come for the holidays. Here are a few of the most common questions:

As a parent, how should I cope when my kids decide to not visit from school during the holidays?

Parents, you are going to have to come to terms with the fact that your children are growing up and want independence. Soon they may have a spouse and might have to share their holidays with the other sets of parents. This is a very normal developmental stage. Think positively. You have done your job. They are growing up and creating their own family life. Soon you will get to be a part of your child's vision for their own family.

Why do I (parent) have such an issue with my teen not wanting to visit me during the holidays? Am I being overprotective? 

As a parent, you are afraid that you will be left out. Being left out is an awful feeling. There is a great fear of missing out (FOMO). I don't necessarily think you are afraid of your child's independence, but rather that their new life will not involve you.

What are some ways that, as a parent, I can still communicate and spend time with my kids when they aren't present for the holidays? 

I think it is important to do something special for your child over the holiday. This can be something like creating a beautiful memory album or an Advent calendar with little gifts to open all the days leading up to Christmas, Hanukkah, or whatever you celebrate. Communicate via video (FaceTime, WhatsApp, etc) when you unwrap each present to keep things connected. 

Once my child says they aren't going to be home for the holidays, what are some things I should say?

You can say, "Call us so we can share some of our family recipes and traditions to do with your new friends” or, "We will miss you, but we hope you are having great experiences.” Or, “We hope someday that we can be a part of your experiences and you'll host us for the holidays.”

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