When we became empty-nesters last Fall, I described it as an emotional roller coaster.I was heartbroken but proud, worried but confident, a whole host of emotions across both ends of the spectrum.Ultimately, I ended up saying it is weird and wonderful. For the first time in over 20 years, we had an empty house! Both children were out in the world, we had no pets to care for, and it was just my partner and I again…having to navigate and relearn being ‘just us’. It was significant and an important opportunity for us to reconnect and find gratitude in this new space.
When a child leaves home for the first time, for whatever reason, parents often feel a multitude of feelings.This is all normal. Adjusting to a quiet house, the absence of extracurricular activities that fill evenings and weekends, and even recalculating the amount of food to buy and cook for meals takes time. But all is not lost!
Try these tips to help ease the transition to this new phase of life.
1. Take time to reconnect with your partner and/or loved ones.
Not only can these individuals support you during this time, they can also be a window into the things you love to do (or new things to try) with some of your new free time.
2. Reconnect with YOURSELF!
Often, as parents, we can lose ourselves along the way. Take this time to really check in with your needs and reassess your desires at this phase of life. Consider starting a journal, meeting with a lifecoach, or exploring other avenues that encourage creativity and self-awareness, such as yoga and meditation.
3. Schedule something fun!
Everyone has a different idea of what this might be, but if most of your time went into child-related activities, this newly found time can be particularly hard for empty nesters. What do you like to do?Schedule some things into your calendar! This could be a new class or hobby, a regular date night, friends night out, or a vacation.
4. Embrace technology!
These days it’s so much easier to connect with your child. It’s also important to establish some ground rules for how often you connect.In addition to connecting via video chat and sharing memes, perhaps start doing a daily crossword or other social game together as a family which can allow for regular check-ins without being too invasive.
5. Discuss a new family tradition for when everyone is together again.
Maybe it’s an agreement to still take family vacations every year. Maybe it’s taking requests for favorite dishes to make when your child returns home to visit. Get creative!
Ultimately, despite waves of emotion, this really can be a wonderful (and weird) new phase of life. Resist the urge to immediately fill the time and space with a brand-new pet. While this may come over time, I would encourage parents to take the time to really sit in the new space and find gratitude for this transition. This can be so valuable as gratitude helps to keep us in the present moment. Change is hard, but it’s also where growth happens. Be open to the experience, and let your light and your child’s light shine bright.