I can't believe the time has finally come! My baby is heading off to college next month. My son is the youngest of 3 children, so it's not my first rodeo sending a child off to school, but this time feels different. What's going to happen when he's gone? The thought of an empty house with just my husband and I is both exciting and worrisome. He works all day while I work from home, so I'm anticipating a lot of alone time in my future. My whole life has been about raising my children to achieve their dreams, and now my baby bird is learning to fly on his own. My life is about to go from overly loud rap music and video games to silence. How do I handle empty nest syndrome?
Lonely Mama Bird
Dear Lonely Mama Bird,
The grief that you're already feeling as your youngest child goes off to college is completely normal and valid! Empty nest syndrome occurs in many parents, especially mothers who are more often in the primary caregiver role. The best thing you can do for yourself is plan ahead on how you're going to deal with the emotions so it's not too overwhelming when that fateful day comes.
Here are 5 ways to overcome empty nest syndrome:
1. Reconnect with your partner. Like you mentioned, it's going to just be you and your husband after your youngest son leaves. Why not rekindle your romance? It's easy to get swept away into the challenges and triumphs of parenting, but it's important to reconnect and revitalize your relationship. Travel without worrying about your kids, plan fun date nights as late as you'd like, or try new activities together.
2. Revisit past passions. It's quite common for parents to give up personal hobbies as parenting takes over your life, but now is your chance to return to those passions! Turn a now-empty bedroom into a yoga or art studio, tend to your garden, or pursue any hobbies that you used to do but couldn't as parenting got in the way.
3. Pursue new activities. Along with revisiting hobbies, trying new activities is a great way to cope with the loneliness you may feel from having an empty nest. Without the responsibility of looking after your children 24/7, the possibilities are endless!
4. Avoid checking in too often. This is a tough pill to swallow. While the desire to check in on your son once he leaves for college is understandable, sometimes obsessively checking in too often is counteractive. Don't spend every minute worrying about what your child is doing, rather trust that you raised a young adult to make responsible decisions.
5. Seek support. Having a strong support system in any difficult life change is a great way to deal with your feelings. Connect with other parents going through the same thing or seek professional help if you feel too overwhelmed.
Remember, "time heals nothing unless you move along with it." The grief you feel will fade as you move forward with your new, independent life. If you're struggling with empty nest syndrome, clinicians in our Counseling & Wellness Centers are here to lend a helping hand.
Call our main number at 844-4-ACENDA (844-422-3632 X9500) for more information or to schedule an appointment.