Articles for the Month of July 2014

Coping with an Empty Nest

what is next?

How to release your children and embrace your next chapter

Years ago, thoughts of an empty nest and life after kids were fleeting notions. You busied yourself with the trials and triumphs of parenthood. For a while, your children clung to you.

But, inevitably, they began to grow up and make their own way.

Now, somehow, here you are.

The house has been returned to you, empty.

Everyday parenting duties are suspended.

Though you’re excited for this new chapter for you and your kids, this new phase is proving harder than you thought.

Take comfort, your empty nest doesn’t have to leave you feeling empty or depressed. Try a few of the following ideas to make the transition easier:

  • Prepare and Plan ahead. Don’t let the sudden quiet and stillness hit you hard. Plan for the voids in your schedule and limited social interaction. Accept that it will come. Plan ways to stay in touch with your children. Utilize social media, text messaging, or schedule regular visits. Combat the loneliness by making time to get out of the house. Put some dates, activities, and get-togethers on that calendar where the kid stuff used to be.
  • Seek out Support. This is a transitional time for you and you’re your family. Surround yourself with sympathetic friends or family members who understand. Talk about your mixed emotions. Discuss your concerns for your child or children and the anticipation of new freedoms or routines. A therapist, too, may be a good sounding board with whom to share any feelings of loss or anxiety as you contemplate the next phase of your life.
  • Revive the Romance. There is no one in the bedroom next door. There isn’t anyone at home to rush back to. Long weekends away, and late mornings in bed can be enjoyed at will. Now is the time to really get to know your partner again. If time and child rearing caused you to push parts of your relationship to the back burner, rekindle the fire. If you find you and your partner need help reconnecting, this child-free period is an opportune time to meet with a couples therapist to help put your relationship back on track.
  • Go on Giving. Whether your kids share a home with you or not, you are still a parent, which means you are probably a “care and nurture expert.” Someone out there needs the benefit of your expertise. Consider pet adoption. Volunteer work that serves or supports others may also prove very rewarding now and will help fill the fulltime-parenting gap.
  • Praise your Progress. The fact that your children are flying solo means you’ve done your job and successfully reached a family milestone. You saw you children through the emotional and physical bumps and scrapes of childhood to become independent young adults. Be proud of that. Be proud of them. They are ready and able to move on because you helped them secure the motivation to find their own way in the world.
  • Explore and evolve. Your kids aren’t the only ones with fresh adventures ahead and new pursuits to explore. Now is your time too. Be creative, travel, take a class. The peace and quiet you coveted years ago is here. Don’t waste it. Who are you now and where are you headed?

An empty nest signals an important, healthy transition for you and your children. If you find yourself unable to shake feelings of depression, anxiety, or grief, spend some time with a therapist who can help you through this tough period.

Take time to adjust.

Then, rediscover your wings.

Couple’s Therapy for One? Yes!

It sounds silly to talk of one person taking part in couple’s therapy, like a solo game of tennis or a waltz for one. You’re half of a couple, doesn’t that mean you’re “half” when you’re on your own?

It can be easier and perhaps more efficient when both partners agree to see a therapist – easier to uncover what’s working and what isn’t for both of you, more efficient to train both partners in the skills of partnership at the same time.

However, it just may not be possible. If your partner doesn’t recognize a problem with your relationship or doesn’t see the value in professional help, or refuses to participate because he or she fears the therapist will be biased, couple’s therapy for one may be your only option.

That doesn’t mean it’s a bad option. If your relationship is in trouble, any help is a good thing, and some therapists who work with one member of a couple report that it can be surprisingly successful, for a number of reasons:Helpless woman at therapy

  • The one member in therapy is most likely a woman, since women are more comfortable asking for such intimate help and communicating their own feelings about their relationship. Women are also more likely to easily pick up the new skills suggested by a therapist and take them home to their reluctant partner.
  • Couple’s therapy ultimately focuses on the relationship rather than one partner. That’s what makes it more appropriate for relationship issues than traditional psychotherapy, which focuses on the interior life of one person. Couple’s therapy offers practical skills to improve a relationship. If the participating member is able to honestly report on the relationship, a skilled therapist can pretty accurately fill out the picture.
  • Even when both partners participate in therapy, each can only work on their own issues – no one can change someone else. So, a solo partner taking part in couple’s therapy can focus on their own issues and make progress.
  • As the participating partner finds insight and becomes clearer and less stressed about the relationship, he or she becomes a model of the value of couple’s therapy, which can reassure the non-participating partner.

For the best outcome, take your time when selecting your therapist. Look for someone with training and experience in couple’s therapy, and one who is comfortable working with one partner.

It’s not enough just to show up at couple’s therapy, though. You must come in prepared to work. These will not be complaint sessions; the therapist doesn’t want to hear about how your partner has wronged you in the past. The topic will be the repeating issues that are keeping your relationship in turmoil and what can practically be done to change that dynamic.

In addition, even though your partner won’t come to the therapy sessions, he or she must be willing to also work on changes in the relationship. This doesn’t mean that you will simply come home with a to-do list for your partner. You must internalize the changes, improve your own partnering (offer a foot rub, be honest about a subject you’ve been avoiding, stand up for your own needs) and expect your partner to do the same. If your partner shows any interest, be generous in sharing what you’ve talked about with the therapist, what you’re reading, how you feel you have changed.

As you grow in understanding and confidence, your partner may decide to join in your sessions. Welcome him or her – this is what you hoped for from the beginning. If that never happens, know that your relationship and your own part in it can improve remarkably if you go it alone.

You’re Newly Divorced – 10 Ways to Adjust to Life on Your Own


Divorced.

woman returned wedding ring to  husband . Divorce conceptSome people throw a party.

Some people throw a fit.

And some people are simply thrown for a loop.

Facing life on your own can be stressful and full of uncertainty.

You’ll need time to gather your thoughts, a willingness to assemble a support team, and the courage to redefine your future.

Don’t fret.

You will learn to throw out the old and embrace the new.

You will adjust.

Here are 10 ways to get started:

Modify your Mental State

1. Retain routines. Keep yourself grounded in some of your usual habits. This makes the multitude of transitions you’re making a bit more tolerable. A 180-degree turn away from your old life isn’t always necessary. As much as possible, eat well, sleep enough, and maintain familiar daily activities.

2. Scrutinize your self-talk. Give yourself a break. You didn’t plan to be divorced; expect a learning curve. Remind yourself that you are simply learning to make lemonade. Sometimes it’s sweet and sometimes it’s sour. Give yourself time to get it right.

3. Plan your peace. Intentionally spend time in peaceful reflection. You can practice meditation, journal, or take a 10-minute walk. It is important to avoid becoming overwhelmed; be in the moment, express gratitude, and consider the larger lessons of your life.

Prioritize Your People

4. Confide carefully. You definitely need support right now. Lean on shoulders. Talk it out. You’ll be better for it, as long as you choose trustworthy, non-judgmental people who want to be there for you. If you find your post-divorce friendships depleted, call a counselor or support group to secure the listening ear you need.

5. Schedule some socializing. Reconnect with old friends. Join a local community center for a class with others who share your interests. If you have kids, meet up with other single parents. Fill your social calendar; open yourself up to new people and perspectives.

6. Relate responsibly. You may want to jump right into another relationship. You may want to scan your ex’s Facebook page for clues to his or her life without you. You’re feelings are natural, but not the wisest course. Handle relationships carefully. Seek the guidance of a therapist to help you manage your emotions and set healthy relational boundaries.

My new life

Customize Your Life Choices

7. Ponder your passions and purpose. Why not see your divorce as an opportunity to reevaluate your career path or creative ventures? You don’t have to quit your job and start over, practical matters are still valid. Just give yourself the freedom to uncheck the “couple” box and think outside of it.

8. Decide to decide. Live your life in the present. Make decisions you put off when you were part of a couple, busy trying to hold the marriage together, or consumed in the divorce process. How do you want your home, family, and career to progress?

9. Make new memories. Snap a few pictures of you enjoying your new life with your kids, pets, or friends. Slide them in the frames, upload them to your social media pages, or keep them with you on your phone. Choose to see the positive and make it part of your daily life.

10. Don’t stay “stuck”. Sometimes, people need help making the adjustments divorce requires. This is all new. If you find yourself unable to move on, an experienced therapist can provide insight into your situation. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to reach for a hand to hold.

Divorce is life altering.

You don’t have to celebrate. Or fall apart.

For a while, you just need to breathe, take the first step, adjust, and repeat.