Empty Nests: The Good, the Bad, the Surprising

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It’s heading towards Fall.

And for many of us who are a certain age, that means our nest is going to get empty (er).  The kids are headed to college or to work, and we’re about to find ourselves with fewer kids, or none at all, for the first time in a LONG time. So, what does that really mean?

 1. It’s like grieving.  If the thought of your kids heading out of the house leaves you feeling sad, that’s completely normal!  Psychologists find that parents can experience grief, a loss of purpose, and even depression when the nest gets empty.  After all, we’ve let our role as parent define us for 18+ years, and now we may not know who we are.  Just know that those feelings are normal, and also that they will naturally fade.

 2. You’re not sure who you are.  As your relationship with your child changes, you may feel unsure of yourself in this new role.  Something as simple as knowing how often your child might want to talk (every day?  Sunday afternoons?) can leave you feeling off balance.  Talking with your child about this “new normal” can go a long way to alleviating your sense of uncertainty.

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3. You’re headed in opposite directions.  For so long, you and your child have been part of a unit—you’ve grown with them from elementary school, through the challenges of middle school, and into the many choices that come with high school.  But now, as they head off to college or out of your house, you may feel like your lives are in opposition.  They are off to bright new beginnings, while you are starting a long good-bye.

 But, really?  Does it all have to be doom and gloom?  Not at all!  So many pieces of your life may actually be on the upswing when the kids move out!

 ·        Your house just might stay a little cleaner, and quieter, without so many people tromping in and out.

·        If you don’t want to, you never have to sit on the bleachers at a high school football game ever again. (Of course you can, but now it’s up to you!)

·        Remember those hobbies you used to love?  Now you’ve got time for them again! Heck, you might even want to start a new career now that you’ve got some time.

·        Remember your spouse?  You can reconnect and do things that the two of you enjoy—vacations, restaurants that don’t serve French fries, time with other adults without kids.

·        You can take real pleasure in watching your young person become an amazing adult!

 I love my kids.  And I have gladly spent the last 21 years with “parent” as my primary role in life.  So yes, I’m facing my empty nest with no small amount of trepidation.  But I’ve got two great kids in my life, and watching them soar is going to be so wonderful!

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  Caveat:  Friends, if you’re feeling especially lonely as you face your empty nest, particularly if you fear you might harm yourself, please reach out.  The NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) website has lots of information, and this Suicide Prevention Lifeline is answered 24 hours a day.

 Becky Eason, PhD, is an Associate Certified Coach and Certified Leadership Coach.  She would love to come with you on your journey for wellness and a happy heart.  Learn more on her website: wequestforwellness.com

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