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.
Time to leave the nest
After 18-plus years of focusing on the life-altering task of raising a child, letting go is not as easy as flipping a light switch. It is a process, and a significant life transition.
Although it may feel daunting, taking the next few months to prepare yourself for life as an empty nester can pay huge dividends in the long run. Here are six tips to help you as you look toward life as an empty-nester.
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 voicemail 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’s a big life change. Know that your son or daughter is facing a big life change right now too.
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 don’t 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 friends and family about your upcoming life transition. Most likely, you will find sympathy and understanding.
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.