Dr. Yvette Stupart is a clinical counselor and educator. She gives insights on how to experience emotional health and relational well-being.
Dr. James Dobson is an internationally-recognized psychologist who specializes in child development, family, and parenting issues. He recalls his experience when his youngest son was leaving home for college. He said that it was not that he wanted to hold on to his son but, "I mourned the end of an era."
It is normal to experience sadness when your children leave home. Despite the sadness and sense of loss that comes with your child leaving home, an empty nest could mark the start of a period of transition that moves you into a very rewarding season of your life.
Are you ready to make the most of your empty nest? You can! This article outlines practical steps you can take to transition into a fulfilling stage of life with a high level of marital satisfaction, freedom to travel and explore new interests, and the joy of seeing your children take their places in the world.
What Is Empty Nest Syndrome?
The term "Empty Nest Syndrome" refers to feelings of sadness when children grow up and leave home. This condition affects both parents, but it is more often experienced by mothers. While many parents experience a sense of loss and distress, it can also be a time when you focus on taking control of their personal needs instead of those of your children.
This article could help you to get a fresh, new outlook on this stage of life. Instead of viewing the empty nest with dread, you could become open to the great possibilities this season of your life presents.
Rediscover Love and Success During Empty nest
Make Preparations for Your Transition
Start making plans before your child leaves home. This gives you time to begin to adjust to not having him or her around. In her book, "From Mom to Me Again," Melissa T. Shultz lists nine signs that indicate that a parent is not ready to transition to the empty nest. The checklist includes:
- "Your teenager is your best friend
- You make conscious choices concerning your teen, for your teen
- You and your spouse/partner spend most of your time together talking about your child/children
- Your days revolve around children-related activities
- When you think about your son or daughter leaving for school or moving out, you get emotional and cannot talk about it
- You feel your best days are behind you" (p. xxi).
Many parents are likely to identify with at least some of the items on the list. So the transition will not happen overnight; it's a gradual adjustment of your life. For example, before your last child leaves home, start establishing new routines to match the direction your life will go in as an empty nester.
The key is to plan in advance for the day, and don't allow it to take you by surprise. Even more, guard against self-defeating and irrational thinking like, "I can't do without my children." Instead, you will need to evaluate your life and your goals and explore your options. This could result in you expanding your horizons for your future, instead of experiencing sadness and gloom.
Fulfill Your Life's Passion
Fulfill the passions that you placed on hold, if at all possible. Begin by making a list of the things you said you wanted to do one day. This is the time to go after your dreams. Set achievable goals, but start out slowly. For as you make small changes over time, the process will be much less distressing.
You can learn new skills and pursue hobbies you neglected, or take up new ones. You can also network with your friends and people you know about possible job opportunities. What about joining a professional organization? This could help you could help get back in touch with your profession and the people in it.
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You might want to travel to some faraway places, see the sights, and interact with people of diverse cultures. Or, there might be an area of need in your community that you longed to get involved in and make a difference. This is your chance: volunteer to help those in need and expand your network.
Tips on Empty Nesting
Improve Intimacy in Your Marriage
As you move into the empty nest period, you will find that you have much more time to spend with your spouse. Make the most of this time, rediscover each other, and deepen the bonds between you.
A essay by Sarah Gorchoff, Ph.D., indicates that empty nesters enjoy greater satisfaction with their partners, than mothers with children still at home. It suggests that it is the quality time spent together that matters.
You can experience greater levels of marital satisfaction during this time, as you improve communication with your spouse, grow closer to each other, and make the most of your empty nest. This is the time to invest yourselves for greater intimacy in your relationship, and to experience a fresh bloom in your marriage!
Establish New Relationships With Your Adult Children
The empty nest season is the time to take control of your personal need, and build a new kind of relationship with your now adult children. At this time, while there continues to be loving bonds between you and your children, guard against becoming too involved in their lives.
You are better able to adjust to living apart from your children when there is an appropriate level of involvement. You and you children need to talk about your expectations for each other when they leave home.
Make every effort to keep the communication lines open with you children, although this might be different from what you were used to. This could involve recognizing your children's needs, and suggesting instead of being demanding of them.
Enjoy This Special Season and Make the Most of the Empty Nest
There are seasons in your life too: you moved from being an unattached adult, to being married, and now you are in the season where you let go of your adult children. This the time when your children move to college, into their life's work and/or marriage. But it is also an important season for you as a parent.
The season of empty nest covers the final two stages of psychologist, Erik Erickson's developmental stages. Here, the focus is on your looking beyond yourself and expressing concern and support for future generations, while looking back on your life with satisfaction and personal fulfillment.
While the empty nest stage is markedly different from the preceding stages of your life, it is a time to celebrate your achievements. It could also bring new meaning to your marriage and your relationship with your adult children, and new opportunities for you to grow and enlarge your boundaries.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2013 Yvette Stupart PhD