Facing the dreaded empty nest

As students leave for college, families struggle to adjust


Back-to-school time has passed and families are beginning to settle into their daily routines. However, for some, this year is different than others.

Many of last year’s Granite Bay High School graduates are beginning to leave for college.

While these new college freshmen may be excited to start their next chapter, their family members at home are adjusting to this new dynamic.

“It is very different — it is so quiet,” said Kimberly Handy, mother of Alina and Jordan Poczobutt who are attending the University of Alabama and the University of San Francisco, respectively.

Alina and Jordan are the last of Handy’s children to graduate and head off to college, leaving the family with an empty nest.

“We are sad and getting used to how quiet it is (around the house),” Handy said.

Suchi Krishnaraj, a science teacher at GBHS, is in a similar situation.

Her eldest daughter, Aditi Ganapathi, is a junior at the University of California at San Diego, and her last child, Ashwini Ganapathi, left to attend California Polytechnic University at San Luis Obispo.

“The first year was hard,” said Krishnaraj about the departure of her oldest daughter for college more than two years ago. “But then it got easier.”

However, as the time came for her younger daughter to leave, it was a “sweet” moment for her.

“It is time for her to go and explore – we have sheltered her a little too much, so I think this is her time to go and shine,” Krishnaraj said.

For some families, like Handy’s and Krishnaraj’s, they have an empty nest, but others still have children at home.

Jack Stinson, a junior, is now effectively an only child because his brother, James, left to attend the University of Nevada at Reno in August.

“It did not really hit me for the first couple of days, but I realized he was not coming home anytime soon when we moved his clothes out of his closet and it kind of got real,” Stinson said. “I am getting a lot more attention, which is a good and bad thing.”

A study by Jennifer Powell-Lunder, a blogger for GalTime, showed that when an older sibling leaves for college, it directly impacts the sibling left behind.

All brother and sisters are affected in different ways, according to study author Powell-Lunder, however a common theme is being bored or lonely and receiving more attention from parents.

Freshman Camille Garcia’s older sister, Taylor, left to attend Notre Dame de Namur in August.

“It is bittersweet – I miss her, of course, but it is kind of nice to have change,” Garcia said.

Now with just her and her brother at home, Garcia said her mom “focuses more on me and my brother instead of having to worry about what my sister needs for college.”

Senior Erika Bishop’s older sister Alison left for Chico State last month, which leaves just Erika and her brother, Evan, at home.

“I miss having her in the house because she is who I would talk to when I was bored or needed an opinion on something,” Bishop said. “Now the attention is on me and my brother.”

Most students who have an older sibling who went to college said they feel like they get more attention from their parents. Parents of these siblings said essentially the same thing – they’ve been spending more time with their other children.

Elena Rizzuto, whose daughter Gemma left to attend Cal Poly SLO, has one child, Antonio, at home now.

“We are spending more time going out to eat or going to the movies together,” Rizzuto said.

Even though she still has a child at home, Rizzuto misses spending time with her daughter.

“I have that mixed feeling of excited and sad (that Gemma has left) because we spent a lot of time together,” Rizzuto said.

She makes sure they keep in touch by texting and Snapchat.

Another parent in a similar situation is World Language teacher, Jill Cova, whose daughter Ally is attending the University of Nevada, Reno.

“We are missing her tremendously but obviously supporting her on this new adventure,” Cova said.

In addition to her daughter leaving, Cova said she is also hoping she did everything possible to prepare her for this new chapter in her life.

“I would feel successful if she can be secure in herself as an individual (that is) happy and independent,” Cova said. “… It is important to let her discover herself.

“If I can do that, then I have done my job well.”