What You Need to Know and How to Cope with Children Leaving Home
The circle of life is a continual thing. We grow up, find someone we love, generally get married, and have children. We watch those children grow from taking their first steps to walking across the stage at graduation. Parenthood is filled with a lot of fun, stress, and thinking about the future, but one thing that seems to come all too soon is our children going out on their own to start their own lives. The notion of a child leaving home can be a mix of elation, sadness, and utter confusion, but no matter what you are feeling, life must continue one. Here are some tips for contending with empty nest syndrome as you watch your babies go off on their own.
Rediscover One Another
Single parents can often find it harder to contend with empty nest syndrome with those that have a partner in their life. The notion of being completely alone can be a lot to contend with, but if you are single, consider finding a roommate to share your space or spending more time with friends. As for partners, this is the time where you will begin to rediscover one another. Take time to sit, talk, and find out what each other is all about. Where you may have been together for many, many years, there is always something new you can discover about the one you love. Consider this as your time as you have completed the task of successfully raising your children together.
Take a Trip
You have taken your children on countless road trips and vacations throughout their lives spending endless amounts of money just to see them smile. That is great, but traveling with the entire family can be expensive. However, when your child is successfully out on their own, whether in college or out in the workforce, taking vacations can become more common and far less expensive. Consider taking a trip on your own or with your partner to mix things up a little. If you have always wanted to drive across country, now is the time to do it.
Do Not Apologize for Feeling How You Do
Empty nest syndrome is a very real thing and a lot of emotions can happen during this confusing time. The key in coping is allowing yourself to feel what you are feeling without judgment. You will continue to cook for more than one or two and sometimes even forgetfully set the table for the whole family. Remember, you have to adjust to the notion of fewer people in the home and with so many years of family dinners behind you, you will likely feel a little discontented and even sad from this realization. It is ok to feel sad or even cry. Allow yourself and your partner to feel those feelings, but always be there to pick one another up at the end of the day. You will get through this. It will just take time.
Remodel Part of Your Home
Ok, we are not telling you to turn your child’s room into a sewing space or a workout room, but remodeling and redecorating your home can be therapeutic in many ways. Finding a project around the home and changing up how the home looks can often make it feel less empty. Working on a project will also take your mind off your child leaving and help you emphasize your creative side. Remember to take on small projects in the beginning as taking on too much too soon will ultimately be overwhelming. Painting a wall, room, or adding accents to a space can be the small change you need to get out of your empty nest rut.
Try Out a New Tradition
This part of the process can be a little difficult. Traditions in families run very deep and are important to all, but they can sometimes become impossible to achieve once the child leaves the home and has a family of their own. Your child may be tempted to step out of the realm of traditions in the home and it is important to allow it to happen with little difficulty. If you find that your child does not come home for a major holiday, simply switch things up a little. Consider taking a vacation for the holiday season and keeping yourself occupied with something new. Simply trying to keep up the same traditions might seem ok, but it can actually be detrimental to the growing process. Consider it as starting something new, not losing something old.
Make Time to Give Back
Grief of your child leaving home can be substantial and will be stronger at different times. However, it is important that you make an attempt to adjust to the now and not dwell on what was. That is easier said than done, but one tactic that helps is to find a way to give back. Find a local resource to help your community. Volunteer at a homeless shelter, youth ministry, or even at a senior center. Giving back to the community is not only a way to enrich the lives of others but can also help you transition into doing things for yourself. Remember, you were in service to your kids for many years and if you are used to doing for others, that does not have to change completely.
Empty nest syndrome is a very real and important step parents must take when their children leave home. For some, the issue is not really a big deal, but for others, it can feel devastating. It is important to realize that your child is not leaving you, but investing in their own, grown-up lives. It is an enriching experience to allow your child to head out on their own and do not forget, there will come a time when they need you again. Even the oldest adult craves time with their parents, so continue to be available to your child, but do not be overbearing in your approach. They know your door is always open.