By Piyali Syam, Google Author
With fall around the corner, kids around the country are heading off to that brave new world of college. It’s undoubtedly an adventure for them, but what does it mean for you? You’ve spent 18 plus years tending your nest, so when your little birds finally fly away it’s natural to feel emotionally overwhelmed. Empty nest syndrome, feelings of grief, anxiety, loss, and confusion upon the departure of children, is common in parents whose children leave home for the first time. Follow these tips to avoid empty nest syndrome and ensure a smooth transition.
Accept change. You knew when you first had your kids that they wouldn’t stay at home forever, and ultimately, you wouldn’t want them to. Growing up is an essential part of life, and this moment is what all your hard work has been for; so that your children could spread their wings and begin their own lives as independent adults, taking with them all that you have given them and taught them as parents. Have faith in them, and confidence in yourself that you have done all you could as parents.
Keep in Touch
Just because your children have left the nest doesn’t mean they can’t come back, or that you’ll never see them again. Keeping in touch is easier than ever nowadays with ever-expanding technological developments. If they’re far away, on the other side of the country or another country, for instance, virtual technologies like Skype and FaceTime allow you to maintain some semblance of face-to-face contact. Depending on how far away your kids are, weekend visits are certainly a great option. However, make sure to limit these visits to a reasonable number so as to maintain some healthy distance. Strike a balance between keeping in touch and giving your kids space.
You’ve spent years tending to your children, thus settling into the identity of parent and caretaker. Now is the time to focus on yourself. Develop an identity outside of your children. Seek out professional opportunities and dive into hobbies and interests which you never had the time to while you were so busy taking care of your family. Never had time to learn French? How about taking French classes in the city, or finally sitting down with Rosetta Stone? Always had to leave work early to pick up the kids and never got a chance to start that project that’s been sitting on the backburner? Now’s the time!
Rekindle Your Relationship
One of the reasons why many couples find an empty nest so challenging is because the absence of children as a buffer forces you both to finally be confronted with only each other. But all this new one-on-one time is exactly why this stage can be so rewarding as well. For the first time in many years, you and your partner have the opportunity to give each other your full, undivided attention, rather than having that attention split and spread out. Seize the opportunity to spend more meaningful time with your partner and rekindle your relationship. Have regular date nights (more than once a month!), meet up for lunch during your work break, and learn to just enjoy each other’s company again.
No matter what you do, it’s natural to find yourself feeling strong emotions such as grief and anxiety with the departure of your children. And reconnecting with your partner, especially while one or both of you is dealing with empty nest syndrome, can prove to be more challenging than you bargained for. Sometimes, you need the professional ear of a therapist to help you work through this emotional turmoil in a healthy and productive manner. PARC’s compassionate and highly trained therapists are just the people to turn to.