When I was holding my baby boy over 20 years ago, I had no thoughts about him becoming an adult son who would grow up and move away. I was too captivated by his innocence, his beauty, his soft baby skin.
But the years passed (too quickly!) until one day we were looking at college catalogues and the next day I was dropping him off at the dorm. Confession time – I drove two miles, pulled over to the side of the road and sobbed. And, of course, my younger son was privy to this emotional moment!
So…what would I have wanted to know before I began to live as an empty nester! Here are five basic hints to help you move through this stage:
1 – Be aware of your own feelings! Ignoring the sadness about life changing isn’t helping you or your teen to move on! So…say it out loud! “I’m going to miss you, but I’ll be fine!” DON’T make them feel guilty about moving on – that’s what life is about! Show them that you have a life – you might not believe it at this moment, but you do!
2 – Keep his/her room as as…at least until they come home for their first vacation. Even though he/she is in college now, it still holds memories! Gradually you’ll start to change the room, but wait until you’re ready.
3 – Accept yourself! I sat at home in the evenings for the first two months after my younger son went to college. Bored? Yup! Lonely? Definitely! Waiting for life to return to the “usual”? That’s what was keeping me back from doing anything new! Until I actually got fed up with myself and joined a class – I know all the books say it, but I had to experience the boredom and loneliness before I realized how right the experts are! This “empty nest” time is a gift to yourself!
4 - Try something new! For me, it was a Spanish conversation class. I knew that the time had come for me to leave my house – because if I didn’t, I would start to isolate myself. So I signed up for the first class I could think of and high-tailed it there every Wed night for 8 weeks. And I started meeting total strangers who had experienced exactly what I was going through! By the way, I learned some great Spanish phrases as well!
5 – Stay in the present! When my son was still a senior in high school I was already sobbing about him going to college – I created more stress for both of us just because I was grieving prematurely. It’s absolutely healthy to do that if that’s your style, but don’t share it with the world! We both could have been happier if I had just breathed a little bit deeper, hugged him a little bit more often and reminded both of us that this is just another stage we’re going through as parent and child.
An empty nest is a gift to yourself for a job well done!
And remember… the baby birds always come back to say thank you!