Back-to-school month is winding down and another year is peeking around the corner, but for many of us who parent, these months mark a time of new beginnings rather than endings. Millions of our children have headed off to college, started first jobs, moved into their own homes or undertaken myriad other endeavors that now firmly plant them on the “adulthood” side of the fence — leaving us to experience the phenomenon known as Empty Nest Syndrome.
While not a clinical diagnosis, Empty Nest Syndrome is commonly understood as the adjustment period that parents and guardians may go through as their children embrace independence and begin to travel the path of their futures. Caretakers are left holding a mixed bag of emotions: excited for what lies ahead for their children, and hopeful that their children put the knowledge and skills they’ve acquired throughout the years they’ve spent at home to their best uses in the wider world.
At The Humphreys Group, we’ve written extensively about the role resilience plays in supporting the effects of significant life changes. We believe strengthening one’s emotional and social resiliencies can help balance the intense feelings that may accompany a transitional stage like this one.
While the emotional impact of such a transition affects each person differently, experts suggest a few ways to prepare for this new chapter in your own life. Here are several ways you can begin to enjoy the new opportunities for growth and connection — to your children, your partner and your extended community — it also offers you:
- Plan ahead. If you’ll be faced with an empty nest soon, realize one positive aspect is that you likely will have more flexibility to engage in endeavors that interest you. What would you like to do with those extra moments? Exercise; engage in creative or educational projects; pursue social or cultural activities; strategize your financial future; or volunteer in your community? Remember your dreams. Revive some (or all) of them. Or dream new ones.
- Strengthen ties. Bolster your support system by recharging your relationships with your partner, friends and community — as well as the children who’ve “flown.” Make the effort to reconnect with those you haven’t been in touch with, given all your parental duties. If you have a partner, use the moments and space you’ve gained to rekindle your connection to each other. Remember that staying in touch with your grown children can help you foster the “adulthood dimension” of your relationship with them.
- Trust the process. Many soon-to-be empty nesters experience a range of feelings — loss, excitement, impatience, frustration, sadness, relief and happiness among them. Be gentle with yourself as you grapple with this complicated gamut of emotions while finding your footing and redefining the relationship you have with your increasingly independent adult child or children.
As you watch your child or children head into the responsibilities, roles and adventures of their adulthoods, cherish all you’ve accomplished in raising them. Remember that change is one of the few reliable constants in life; give yourself permission to enjoy the changes, on your terms. Contact us today to begin a conversation about how to make the most of this new phase in your life.