by Cathy Neville, LPC, on July 6, 2014
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.