When your child leaves home it can be a time of mixed feelings. You may feel relief at the prospect of no longer having the phone ring off the hook, or the fights about curfew, and sad at the thought of seeing someone you have devoted so much of your life to walk out the door. However, if you experience feelings of sadness and loss of purpose when your last child leaves home, do not be worried. Instead, try some of the following things to help cope with an empty nest:
Find someone to talk to. One of the best ways to cope with empty nest syndrome is to sort out your feelings. So talk to your spouse or a friend. If you don’t feel better, consult a counselor or therapist trained in the field. These feelings are real, and normal, and nothing to be ashamed of.
Consider joining a group of similar people. Even if you’re not one who typically joins groups, this is a great thing to do if you are feeling lonely, sad, etc. A group with similar experiences can offer information, new friends, creative solutions and a sympathetic ear, as well as a chance to get out and have fun on occasion.
If you really want to cope, it is always a good idea to do some research and know what you are facing and what experts recommend you do. So, find information about empty nest syndrome so you better understand what you are going through.
One thing most experts recommend is to simply become involved in something. Your children have taken up so much of your time for so many years that suddenly not being needed for those things can leave a person feeling empty. Fill that void by taking up a new hobby, sport, musical instrument, or begin volunteer effort. There are probably a hundred things that at one point or another in your life you would have liked to try and didn’t, so try those things now.
Find something to look forward to. Having something fun or exciting planned can help ward off feelings of sadness or depression. So, plan a vacation, set a date night, plan a regular game night with friends, or whatever else it is you think will brighten your week. If you want to you could even plan vacations to visit your children or grandchildren.
Don’t let the distance get too big with your children. Take advantage of technology, No matter how far away they are you can communicate regularly by phone, e-mail or letters. It is great to continue building your relationship with them but from a different point, instead of parent, be trusted friend and advice giver.
Enjoy time with your spouse. When your children leave the home, if you’re married, it is great to consider this a time as an opportunity to become reacquainted with your spouse and rekindle the intimacy you once shared. You now have the luxury of privacy when you want it, the ability to go out or away for the weekend without worrying about your child, so spend quiet evenings, take long walks, go on impulsive trips and eat dinners out.
The truth is that coping should not be your focus, rather enjoying should be. So, take your time to grieve the exit of your last child from your home, then enjoy it to the fullest extent that you can.