It may be hard to believe when your pre-schooler is rubbing yogurt into the rug, and your newborn is screaming blue murder, but there will come a time when your house is empty and quiet, and you will be longing for the sound of unsatisfied grumbling to fill your evening.
As many of us see high school graduation retreat in the rearview mirror we are faced with an unwanted destination just over the horizon; our kids will be leaving home soon. Despite the fact I have often longed for a couple of days without complaints about vegetables (yep it never stops even when they are 18 some of them still don’t want their veggies) or a washing basket that wasn’t overflowing I have to admit, the thought of them striking out on their own fills me with dread.
It was bad enough this week dropping our middle son off at the military base from which he went away to teach cadets for seven weeks. There were tears, there were multiple hugs, and there were double and triple checks to make sure everything was OK, and that was just my husband. I was a hot mess too. When our eldest son goes off to Europe to visit friends and family next month, I don’t know what we’ll do.
Some people cope well when their kids leave home. The grown up version of those videos you see of parents breaking out the champagne as the school bus pulls away for the first time at the beginning of the school year. Others, not so much and I think I’ll be somewhere between the two extremes.
How are you supposed to deal with those feelings of sadness when your children leave home? Is there enough wine, chocolate, and ice-cream to cope? Will you find yourself leaving dishes to go moldy in their room because you miss finding plates with dubious furry blobs on them under the bed? Surprisingly, none of these are healthy ways to manage and there are other things you can do to resist a downward spiral into empty nest syndrome.
Keep in Touch
Before your kiddo is ready to go, take the time to discuss things like communication. Explain that you don’t want to bother them 317 times a day, but you can’t help but worry and, especially at the beginning, you want to be sure they are ok.
Agree on a rough schedule of calls. Maybe you’ll call them on Sunday night, and they’ll call you one evening in the week. Remember that before they leave your child will have very little idea of what their schedule will look like so stay flexible. You also need to balance your need to know they are ok with their need to experience freedom, build new friendships and adapt to their new lifestyle.
You also have the option of dropping an email that they can answer at their leisure or text. Just make sure you don’t end up as an amusing “text fail.”
Avoid Creating a Shrine
Many parents make the mistake of turning their child’s room into a shrine after they leave home. Keep their bed available for visits home if they are at college but otherwise consider renovating the room. You can make it into a craft room, an office or even just a guest bedroom.
Find New Interests
If a large part of your life has been interwoven with the life of your soon to be gone chick, don’t wait until they leave to begin looking for ways to fill your time. Check out and book yourself into adult education classes ahead of time. Get your grown-up kiddo to help you track down events in your community and consider attending some together before they leave. Meeting new people can be difficult at any age so going places with some back-up can ease the pain.
Volunteer And Help Others
There are many organizations looking for reliable, and compassionate volunteers. If you have a skill connected to your job this can be especially valuable to a charity. If you love animals, consider volunteering at your local shelter. Other great examples include homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and organizations for the elderly.
Volunteering is also an excellent way to decide whether or not you want to start a new career or go back to work. Because you don’t have a rigid schedule, you’re able to ease into things at a comfortable pace.
Never be afraid to ask for help, after your grown kids fly the nest. Frequent feelings of sadness and depression are something that many parents deal with, during this time in their lives. It’s essential to acknowledge your grief and not let it keep building up inside.
Whether you talk to your doctor, a mental health professional or simply friends and other family members, this type of support can help you deal with your feelings.
Hopefully, some of these suggestions will help you overcome your own particular flavor of empty nest syndrome. Don’t expect to be a ok overnight. It’s a process that takes time, but before you know it, you could be using their room as a home gym and telling they can visit but there’s no guarantee you’ll be home to entertain them.