If your last child is graduating this year, you probably see the empty nest looming with a mixture of dread and elation, with significant anxiety stuck in there too. It’s an odd combination of emotions, to be sure! Know that what you are feeling is completely normal. After 18+ years of focusing on the sacred, life-altering task of raising a child, letting them go is not as easy as just flipping a light switch. It is a process and a significant life transition. Although it may feel daunting, I want to encourage you to take the next few months to prepare yourself for life as an empty nester. Here are six tips to help you along the way.
1. Finish Strong as a Parent:
Remind your son or daughter that these are your last few months together and that you will be using this time to make sure they are equipped to leave the nest. Ask for their patience and explain that this is something you need to do as their parent. Then, if you haven’t already, show them some simple how-tos in the kitchen, laundry room, and cleaning departments. Have them handle things like making medical appointments, picking up prescriptions, and filling out the associated paperwork. If you can send them off with these skills, you will feel like you’ve equipped them to handle real-world situations.
2. Have a Few Crucial Conversations:
Talk with your college-bound child about expectations and come to an agreement on things like how often to text, call, or FaceTime. Are late-night conversations okay? How will you handle it if one of you isn’t able to respond to a text or voice mail right away? How often does your child anticipate coming home for weekends? Will that visit home involve laundry? How do you feel about that? Having these discussions before the actual departure date (when everyone’s emotions tend to run high) will be a big help and get everyone on the same page.
3. Keep Your Own Emotions in Check:
Without a doubt, you are feeling a complex mix of emotions as you face the empty nest phase of your life. After all, it is a big life change. Who else is facing a big life change right now? Your child! Just as you have feelings of uncertainty about life as an empty nester, your son or daughter has similar feelings about leaving home. Be there to listen and offer reassurance. Remember that you are the adult. You do not want to increase your son or daughter’s anxiety by imposing your own emotional neediness onto them.
4. Build Up and Fortify Your Support System:
If you’re married, talk with your spouse about your feelings. (Chances are they share many of the same ones!) If you are a single parent, talk with your friends and family about your upcoming life transition. Most likely, you will find sympathy and understanding. Please consider signing up for the Empty Nest Blessed email list for ongoing tips and encouragement. I would love to be a part of your support system!
5. Think About Your Life as an Empty Nester:
Make a list of things you’d like to do that you might have put off in the child rearing years. Would you like to travel? Return to the workforce? Learn a new skill? Explore the possibilities and find something that excites you!
6. Plan a Getaway:
Make travel arrangements for a trip sometime within your first month as an empty nester. It will give you something to plan for and look forward to during that initial period of adjustment. You need to celebrate the close of a significant chapter in your life and anticipate the joy of what is to come during the next season.
Although you may initially feel like you want to avoid it, taking the time to prepare, both practically and emotionally, will ease the transition. The next season of life will bring significant adjustments both for you and your child. Be proactive in your preparation. Trust me; you will be glad you did.
Feel like you need more help? I want to come alongside you as you adjust to the empty nest! Click here for additional resources geared specifically toward new empty nesters and leave me a comment if there is a specific topic you’d like me to address in the coming months. A few months ago I shared a little about my personal adjustment to the empty nest. I hope that sharing my journey will encourage you. We’re in it together, my friends!
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