A Guide for Empty-Nesters on Dealing with Their Kids Going Away to College
Becoming a parent changes your life. While your role as a parent never changes, it does evolve over time. In most cases, you spend the first twenty years devoted to your role in caring for and raising a human. Then, one day, they're ready to fly on their own.
Empty nest syndrome can be an extremely challenging experience. Here's a guide for empty-nesters who are dealing with their kids leaving for college.
Practice Mindfulness to Process Your Emotions
There's no wrong way to feel when you become an empty nester. You may sway back and forth between feelings of joy and hope for your child and loneliness and despair for yourself.
You may feel all of those things at once.
Rather than suppressing your emotions, give yourself time to feel them and process them.
Practice mindfulness and give yourself space to consider your feelings and what they mean so that you can move forward. If you're struggling, reach out for professional help. This period is a big life change for everyone.
Provide in a New Way
While you may no longer be the primary caregiver of your child, you can still show support and help out. There's a huge gift guide on Star Walk Kids that outlines gifts for college-aged children. Surprise them with helpful care packages and items that will be useful on their new journey.
It may take time for you to strike a balance between encouraging their independence and wanting to be supportive. Give it time to find your footing and be open and honest in your communication.
Make a New Bucket List
One of the best ways to get through the feelings of empty nest syndrome is by revisiting the goals and dreams that were delayed by having children. For example, going back to school or traveling to new places. Write these bucket list items out and start checking some off the list.
Schedule Times to Connect
Talk to your children to figure out the best way to stay connected without being overbearing.
One of the benefits of living in the digital age is that it's easier than ever to stay in touch with people. You might decide to have a group chat or schedule a standing date for a weekly video call.
Try and give your child space to find their footing with the new routine and let them set some boundaries.
Revisit Your Relationship
Maintaining a relationship while juggling the responsibilities of parenting is exhausting.
Unfortunately, many empty nesters realize the toll that the years have taken after the kids leave home. Pair that with the emotions of having your children start their lives away from you, and it's no surprise that empty nesters are at the highest risk for divorce.
Use this time to have an honest discussion about your relationship and your goals moving forward. You now have the freedom to rekindle your relationship and do things together that may have been put on the backburner for years. Book that trip to Europe, go for weekly drinks at the bar where you met and work to bring back the romance.
Care For Yourself
Parents spend the majority of their young lives putting the needs of their kids before their own. When your kids flee the nest, prioritize your self-care. This is a great time to start a new hobby and dedicate time for physical fitness.
Care for Others
If you feel a strong need to continue caring for others, consider volunteering for a local charity or organization that's important to you. Volunteering is extremely fulfilling and will help you socialize and meet new people while giving back to your community.
When adjusting to the empty nest, take things day by day. Some days will be harder than others, but eventually, you'll adapt to this new stage of your life.
~ Guest blog written by Ashley Lipman.