Navigating ‘Soiling the Nest’ Before Your Child Leaves for College

As parents, we often dream about the moment when our children spread their wings and leave the nest, embarking on their own journey into adulthood. But when that time actually arrives, it can bring a whirlwind of emotions that we might not have anticipated. For some of us, the transition period is marked by an increase in tension and conflict, a phenomenon commonly known as “soiling the nest.” This term describes the way teenagers, perhaps subconsciously, create friction at home as they prepare to leave, making the upcoming separation a bit easier to handle emotionally.

As my son prepares to leave for college, our home has become a battleground of sorts. His once sweet demeanor has been replaced with moodiness, arguments, and a palpable desire to distance himself from the family routines that have defined his life thus far. It seems as though he’s intentionally making our time together unpleasant, possibly by design. This phenomenon is making me both sadder and more introspective, as I grapple with the imminent change.


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The Nest is Soiled, But Not Beyond Redemption

The disagreements, while supposedly intended to make his departure easier, are having the opposite effect on me. Instead of feeling relief, I am overwhelmed with sadness and a sense of loss. The precious time we have left together feels tainted by conflict. Yet, in the midst of this emotional upheaval, I am striving to find peace and a way to let go gracefully.

Before he leaves, I am making a concerted effort to let go of the things that will no longer matter once he is on his own. It’s an exercise in humility and grace, an attempt to create a tiny corner of peace in an otherwise soiled nest. Here are some specific steps I’m taking:

1. Letting Go of the Small Stuff

The Pile of Dirty Clothes

The mountain of dirty clothes on his bedroom floor used to be a constant source of contention. We would argue about it endlessly, but I realize that next month, those clothes will no longer be on my floor; they will be on his. This is his mess to manage in his new space, and I can finally let go of this battle. By doing so, I hope to foster a more peaceful environment in our remaining weeks together.

Irregular Sleep Patterns

Another point of friction has been his sleep schedule. He stays up too late and sleeps through most of the day, which clashes with the rhythm of our household. Soon, he will be responsible for creating his own schedule in college, adjusting to the demands of his coursework and social life. His time management will no longer be my concern, so I’m learning to let this go as well.

Misplaced Items

Lost keys, wallets, and phones have also been a recurring theme in our household conflicts. However, his safety net of having me help find these items will soon be gone. He will need to keep track of his belongings independently. This is another area where I can let go, trusting that he will learn to manage his responsibilities.

Staff Writer
Staff Writer
ForEveryMom staff contributed to this article.

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