For many, being a parent is what defines a person for years. From the day a newborn is brought home, to the sleepless nights and the many celebrated milestones, the first day of school, the soccer games, choir practices, carpools, schedules, dinner planning and all of the rest… parenthood is fully immersive. But, in the blink of an eye, this once small bundle of joy that has been all-consuming, is waving their final farewell, running off to their new life as they enter their college years.
Then it hits you… you realize you are officially an empty nester.
The house is quiet. There are no more arguments about cleaning or organizing a bedroom, taking care of the dog, or even unloading the dishwasher. No need to buy loads of food or, accommodate schedules, or remind the kids that they are late for the tenth time this morning. Now, it is just you and your partner. You will replay in your mind the day when you drove your kids off to their new journey, helped them unpack their belongings, said goodbye, and hugged them for what seemed like a millisecond before they took off with a beaming smile and a wave goodbye. This moment is now a memory, and the end of a chapter in your family story.
While some of us feel a sense of relief, freedom, and excitement around their child’s journey into adulthood, some of us can’t help but feel great sadness, emptiness, and even question what our next purpose may be. Most of us, however, are somewhere in the middle.
This time in your life allows for a new chapter to be created. Start by appreciating and celebrating your success; your child is independent! This is not something that magically happened. It was a culmination of your dedication, patience, encouragement, and guidance; your emotional, mental, and financial support for them.
Now is the time for you to focus on just yourself. You should be encouraged to feed your emotional, spiritual and physical needs. In this adjustment period, there may be a lack of energy or apathy toward embracing this new situation. There may be a sense of paradoxically feeling overwhelmed.
Here are some ideas that you can consider while transitioning to being an empty nester:
Meet an old friend or start a new relationship - human connection is a mental health booster.
Join a class with people that have similar interests to yours.
Try a new skill such as learning to play an instrument or gardening.
Reconnect with your partner - this help will boost dopamine.
Try a new physical activity - this will increase the releasing of endorphins.
Make a plan for the next time you will meet your child.
If you notice that making an effort to embrace your new situation is causing extreme distress, anxiety, hopelessness, or sadness, then it may be time to seek professional assistance.
You don’t need to struggle in silence…