Adjusting to the Empty Nest: 5 Things to Expect The transition to a home without children can be jarring. Here's how to deal with the range of feelings and embrace the future. BY SUZY MIGHELL
When the kids are gone you'll go through an adjustment process.
“ You may feel emotionally raw in the first few months of adjustment. Learn to let your feelings come and just sit with them.”
If you're a new empty nester, know that what youíre going through is a challenging transition. My heart goes out to you because Iíve been there. As parents, we need to honor the significance of the sacred task we spent the last two decades doing, and it is entirely appropriate that there would be some sorrow at its close. There will be a time of adjustment, and that period will be different for everyone. Here are five things you can expect as you adjust to the empty nest.
1. Fluctuating emotions. Intellectually, you can probably acknowledge that it was time for your kids to move beyond the nest. Along with the normal feelings of sadness, you may feel excited about the growth you know is coming in your childís life, and yours as well. I can remember my feelings alternating between joy, grief, anxiety, exhilaration, freedom, and fear in no particular order. You may feel emotionally raw in the first few months of adjustment. Learn to let your feelings come and just sit with them. As with any form of grief, there is no way to wade through your complex feelings quickly or speed up your adjustment. Give yourself the time you need to get used to this new season of life.
2. Get comfortable. One of the greatest adjustments to life as an empty nester is allowing yourself permission to focus on many areas of life that you may have set aside while you were busy during the child-rearing years. It may feel selfish to think about yourself for a change!
Family and friends can be valuable sources of support for you. Consider meeting with moms who have been through the transition themselves or even ones who are going through it at the same time. Dive into some good resources. There are excellent books available on subjects like midlife, aging, and parenting adult children.
3. Donít do anything drastic. Donít make big decisions or changes immediately. The first months of the empty nest are not the ideal time to adopt a puppy or move to a new town! What you are going through is a major life change, and you need time to process it. (Remember, there is no timetable.) You may want to see a counselor to help you talk through your feelings. Donít be afraid to seek help if you need it.
4. Look forward. Spend some time journaling. Fill your journal with lists of things you want to do, projects you want to take on, people you want to spend time with, and places you want to go. My husband and I made a list of other couples we enjoyed spending time with and committed to going to dinner with one of them every month.
Gradually, youíll begin to get used to the "new normal" and even enjoy things about the empty nest. Youíll marvel at the way the house will stay clean, and no one will eat that last bit of ice cream you were saving just for yourself! Itís okay to enjoy the good things about life as an empty nester.
5. Make plans. Set some goals for your empty nester years and put a plan into motion to meet those goals. This new season of life brings with it an opportunity to rediscover and reinvent yourself.
Adjusting to the empty nest will take time. Donít rush the transition. With patience and a commitment to grow and move forward, you can make the next phase of life significant and meaningful.
Suzy Mighell is the founder and editor of EmptyNestBlessed.com, a lifestyle website for empty nesters. She writes on all aspects of midlife and the empty nest season of life. Suzy has been married for 30 years and is the parent of 3 adult children. Connect with Suzy at EmptyNestBlessed.com and on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.