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Child is leaving for college leaves empty seat at table

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Mrs. Abramovitz, our child is leaving for college and we need some encouragement around the empty seat at our family table. Could you help us?

I would be honored. Our youngest just left for the Air Force Academy in June, and we’re left with an odd number of seats and dare I say, an odd feeling ourselves. The table is where so many memories are made, where we gather to eat, drink, tell stories and be heard. And while the table remains, the empty chair will have to be grieved to some extent. I would encourage you, when you feel comfortable, to invite someone new to the table? Open your home and hearth to another family member, or community member. Share what you have and listen and learn.

Or how about start thinking about the return of your loved one? Maybe make plans for their visit and craft a menu of all their favorite dishes. If you are empty nesting, when you’re ready, you can relish this newfound freedom for all it’s worth. Overall, you should accept your feelings, make plans to see your loved one, schedule some fun and consider new family traditions. Send those care packages and leverage technology to keep the family connected. Conversations can still be as funny or as serious as they were in the kitchen. When your child flourishes you should be proud, and you should remember that you should flourish too.

In keeping with table talk, let’s chat about how our kids can help out. When they’re little, try making a game out of setting the table. Maybe put all the plates, napkins, silverware and glasses on the table and have the kids sort it all out. Fork has four letters so it goes on the left (four letters). Knife and spoon have five letters so they go on the right (five letters). The knife is always placed next to the plate with the cutting side toward the plate and the spoon lives on his right. My boys always loved the idea of the “BMW” starting on your left … it goes bread, meal, water – or making an “ok” gesture with both hands (the left hand looks like a “b” for bread and the right hand looks like a “d” for drink.)

Whenever you sit down at even the fanciest of dinners, you can discern what is yours and what is your neighbors. After all, part of flourishing is having these societal skills.



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