Tips for Taking Advantage of an Empty Nest and Making a Positive Transition
How Becoming Empty Nesters Affects Couples
Dear April Masini,
I have three beautiful children who I devote my life to, but now the last one is going off to college. I am heartbroken. Each child's departure gets harder and harder. My husband and I are having trouble facing the fact that we are going to be empty nesters. What will we do with ourselves? I am so used to devoting my life to my children, I don't know how I can feel good about myself knowing that they don't need me anymore.
Sincerely, Empty Nester"
April Masini's Advice :
Dear Empty Nester,
When children leave home, there are many emotions. The best way to affect a positive outcome is to adjust expectations. If parents see their children leaving as a loss and only a loss, then they will have a saddened reaction, and only a saddened reaction. If they see children leaving as a relief, then they will have a relieved reaction and only a relieved reaction.
Reality is usually somewhere in between. Being in touch with the loss and the gain of a change, can make a positive difference in life.
Here are tips for this transition time:
Consider what your time looks like now. What does your day look like, your week and your year? How much extra time do you really have?
What have you always wanted to do and haven't had time for?
Dig deep and make a list. Obviously, starting a career as a prima ballerina is not likely for someone in their 50s or 60s, but writing a book, opening a health food store, selling real estate, traveling, or getting a PhD, are possibilities. Be honest.
Use this time in your life to do what you want to do and open new doors. Consider charity -- not just giving money, but giving time, fostering children or grandchildren, taking charity-time giving trips, etc. Plan that safari or that trek up Macchu Picchu. Get that Master's Degree. Start dating, if you're single, and have been putting off your social life in order to raise your kids. Celebrate the fact that you did it!
How becoming empty nesters affects couples.
When children leave home, and a couple is left home alone, there can be a lot of adjustments necessary. Some of these changes that require adjustments are listed below. Many times parents occupy their time with the children to avoid problems in their own relationship. When the children are gone, those problems emerge more clearly. This is a great time to take the bull by the horns and deal with them. This can be a very creative time in a couples' relationship as they get to know one another again -- or as they are now.
Children -- even adult children -- can be exhausting.
Many times after children leave home and create empty nests, the parents are more exhausted than they realized. In fact, they may just want to lie down for a week -- or two. This residual exhaustion can be confused with depression. It's not that. It's just the cumulative effect of years and years and years of parenting. Rest.
Schedules in the household revolve around kids for many parents.
When children leave home, there is plenty of time for travel, new careers, retirement, hobbies, and social life activities that weren't possible when the kids were around because there wasn't time available or energy.
Sex life renewal.
Children -- of all ages -- put a damper on sexual impulses that parents have for each other. When the kids are gone, couples have an opportunity to recreate or continue to create a sex life that they've changed from before they had children until the kids left home because they were never really alone.
And don't worry. "Make me a sandwich," is a sentence parents will still hear uttered -- whether their child is six or 60. Somehow, even though kids can drive, graduate college, earn a paycheck, and parent children of their own, they still always see mom and dad as mom and dad. Readjusting to a child's newfound independence -- or lack of it -- can be a change that will depend on your own children and your boundaries.