Without a doubt, the transition to life as an empty nester is challenging. After all, when you’ve spent 18 or more years with child-rearing as your primary focus, it only makes sense that the empty nest adjustment would be significant. Oh, you expect the sadness and uncertainty about the future. But there are some things that nobody warns you about. Today I’m sharing five secrets about the empty nest that no one ever tells you. We’re getting real, y’all. It may not be pretty, but it will be honest.
1. It may take longer to get over than you think.
There is no “normal” time frame for adjusting to the empty nest, and everyone’s adjustment period is different. Transitioning to the empty nest involves a very specific type of grief, and grief is personal. There is no timetable for it. Some people struggle significantly for years. If you feel stuck in your grief, please consider reaching out for help. Many people do.
2. It can disclose other issues that you need to address.
From a struggling marriage or not taking care of your health, to falling behind on home maintenance projects or the latest technology, the time spent focusing on raising your children may mean you need to play catch up in some areas of life. I found that I had been using my kids as an excuse to set aside many things that I shouldn’t have. Once my little “excuses” moved out, I was forced to confront several issues that I needed to address.
3. Your heart will break a little bit every time they leave again.
A friend once told me that if you like the person your kids have turned into, it means you did a good job raising them. Maybe that’s why I feel sad every single time they leave after a visit home! Oh, it doesn’t hurt nearly as much as it did when they left the first time, but it does hurt.
4. You may be jealous of your kids.
They’re young, they’re gorgeous, and it seems like they have their whole lives in front of them. You may be feeling old, tired, and discouraged. If you feel a little envious of your kids, it’s okay. No one talks about it, because no one wants to admit that they feel this way, but it’s actually fairly common.
5. You will have to learn a new style of parenting.
As a parent of an adult child, you will need to learn to close your mouth and open your ears. Mostly you’ll smile and nod a lot, and say phrases such as “That’s so interesting,” “Huh!”, and of course, the old standby, “Well okay then, there you go!” I found the best way to handle things was to be very positive and encouraging with my adult kids, and, if something questionable occurred, I would say something like “Tell me about that.” or “Help me understand that.” If you want to give advice, you need to wait to be invited. If you’re not invited, but you really think they need to know your thoughts, try asking, “Would you like to know what I think?” Follow it with, “You can say ‘no.’” Then respect their wishes. Parenting adult children requires a lot of self-control.
The adjustment to life as an empty nester can be significant. Give yourself ample time to get used to this new stage. Focus on gratitude for the things about the empty nest that you enjoy. Force yourself to look ahead, set goals, and make plans. Chances are, you’ve got many years ahead of you! It’s time to move forward.
What’s surprised you about the empty nest adjustment? Were there things you didn’t see coming? I’d love it if you’d get real with me in the comments below.
P. S. If you’re struggling with the transition to the empty nest, please consider subscribing to my email list. If you do, you’ll receive my free guide, “Adjusting to the Empty Nest.” Know that I have lots of resources that can help you. Look under the tab entitled, “The Empty Nest” in the menu at the top of my website for other articles and posts I’ve written. Also, check out the drop-down menu under the “Resources” tab to find links to resources that I found helpful. Finally, my friend, Steph (from JOY Creative Shop), and I designed a gratitude journal just for my readers. It can help keep you focused on the blessings of the empty nest, and it makes a great gift for anyone who is struggling.