In the last post, I wrote about the transition of sending your children away to college. Today’s post is a follow up with a focus on the parents who are left behind. Many people joke about the relief of having the house all to themselves once children are gone and while that may be the case, the house can be awfully quiet and lonely at the same time. No longer is the hustle and bustle flowing in and out of your house, rather, it’s time to establish a new pace.
This time can be especially difficult on parents, this is what we call the Empty Nest Syndrome. The Empty Nest Syndrome is characterized by feelings of loneliness and depression when your children leave home. Transitions and changes are difficult and it’s a time to redefine your role. Your identity as super mom or super dad can move more to the side and energy towards other relationships can be the focus of your attention.
- Honor your feelings: How are you feeling? Many emotions will come up during this time. The best thing for your emotional well-being is to embrace all of them. You may feel relief that your child is out of the house, then guilt for having that feeling, and sadness that your child is far away…those are all part of the process, they will come and go, and that is okay.
- Re-establish your relationship as a couple: You may have spent 18-years focusing on the well-being of your children, meanwhile the energy and attention towards your relationship with your partner may have been overlooked in this process. Take time to reconnect with your partner.
- Make YOU a priority: What are the things that you’ve been wanting to do, but haven’t? Perhaps it’s going back to school, reading the latest best selling novel…whatever it is, now is the time for you.
- Get involved: This is a great time to get involved in volunteer activities or sign up for classes (e.g., dance, cooking, or art) that you’ve been putting off because you were so busy with your children’s activities.
Although this is a new adjustment phase for your family, take time to express and acknowledge the many feelings that may come up for you. Learn to appreciate the new pace and freedom that this new chapter brings. However, if you are having a difficult time as an empty nester, consider talking with a licensed professional.