A not-so-empty nest

In a column titled “Saying Goodbye To My Child, The Youngster” published recently in the Washington Post, writer Michael Gerson wrote that dropping his eldest son off at college was the worst thing that time had done to him.

Parents react to an empty nest differently – for some, it’s an exciting time of new freedom; for others it’s a lonely, sad time. Whichever end of the spectrum you’re on, this article has a few tips on how to deal with this period in your life.

Eighteen years of non- stop child rearing is a long time – especially when you were so busy, hardly having time to look up as the milestones flashed by. Then all of a sudden they’re off to University leaving nothing but their discarded laundry and an eerie calm.

Empty nest syndrome can hit you out of the blue when the house become bizarrely quiet and your life suddenly much less hectic, or it can be a kind of dread that builds up as your child’s school career draws to an end. Research has linked empty nest syndrome to symptoms of depression and alcoholism, these fortunately, are in extreme cases. Women tend to suffer more than men in this regard. This could be seen as the end of an era – You are no longer a “yummy mummy” but the parent of an adult – and that image could feel a lot less appealing!

After your kids fly the coop, it is time to come to terms with one thing: Your child is moving into another phase of his/her life, and so should you. Focus on the fact that your child has confidently left home which means that you've done a great job as a parent! Take pride and joy in watching your kids make this transition.

So, if you’re experiencing early onset of empty nest syndrome make sure to:

Relax. Chances are that you've not done much of that since the birth of your kids. Reward yourself for the hard work you've put in from midnight feedings to school carpools to sleepless nights waiting to hear your teenager’s key in the door. If you’re happy to finally have the place to yourself, that’s great, it’s also okay to feel a little sad.

Exercise. A regular workout routine have probably been one of the first sacrifices you've made when your child came along, now with fewer obligations you’ll have time to hit the gym regularly. Try to find a workout buddy that is also an empty nester, this will create social opportunities and get you out of the house when you need to.

Walk around naked. Okay, so maybe not, but take this as a metaphor for reconnecting in your marriage. Have date nights or take a second honeymoon. If you’re a single parent, you may not have dated as much as you've wanted to but, now is the time to get out there.

Follow your passion. “Someday” is now! Embark on a new life filled with enriching activities. Finish that course you've always wanted to, learn to play the guitar or travel.

Set a phone date with your kids. To ensure that you don’t go insane with worry set up a regular phone date. This will set your mind at ease and give him/her a reasonable amount of freedom.

Engage in other roles and ways of living, and you’ll discover the confidence and rich well-being that can blossom with this new found freedom. Remember that motherhood is an evolution. You are now a tremendous resource for bigger life decisions involving career, choosing a partner, etc. You will never stop being a parent, you just have to parent from a distance and in a different way.

See more healthy living tips at the Fedhealthy blog.

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