The reality of an empty nester…

The kids are back in school and you have just gone through the first round of holidays and the kids have all gone back to school and jobs.  Things are once again settling back down and it is starting to sink in.

It’s always a bittersweet day that parents look forward to and dread at the same time. That day when all the work you’ve done to prepare your children for the world is tested and you let them go off into the world all on their own.

Whether they’re heading off to college or moving out to their own place, they eventually grow up and leave home.

Yet, as most good parents do, you’ve probably spent decades focusing your attention on them; having special family time or supporting their adventures in sports, music, or some other area. And like most parents, you’ve probably lost your way a little, sacrificing who you want to be until they are taken care of.

That day has now arrived.

And while you might be excited about your prospects ahead, you may also be missing your kids and the time you had together when you were the center of their world. So how do you figure out what’s next for you?

Well, one thing’s for sure, you will always be a parent no matter how old your children get and they will always need you, although not quite as much. What’s shifting now is the day-to-day parenting you’ve done for the last 18 years or so.

Here are some tips that will help get you through this new, uncertain journey you’re taking:

1. Honor the work you’ve done.

Your kids will forever be a big part of your heart. If you like to journal I would suggest writing yourself a letter about what parenting has meant to you, what you loved the most, what you’ll miss, and even what you definitely won’t miss.  Journaling can be very therapeutic for empty nesters and also very enlightening thing you may have missed or not thought about and can now be brought to the forefront of your mind.

2. Allow yourself time to grieve.

Don’t stuff those emotions down. Just like grieving the loss of someone who has passed, this is a time of grieving too. Grieving the life, you once knew and moving forward to accept the new life ahead. It will take time so be patient with yourself.  Take time to be alone and be gentle with yourself while these emotions are working their way through.  They may come up at unexpected times if you do not honor them.

3. Make a plan.

You get to start dreaming again. Start deciding what’s next for you. Start looking and thinking about your bucket list.  Start by making a list of all the things you love to do and figuring out how they can be part of your life now. Maybe it’s starting a new business or volunteering with an organization or traveling to new destinations, whatever you enjoy, no matter how big or small, write it down.  If you’re going to dream you might as well DREAM big right.  It takes just as much energy to dream small, so go for the gusto.  You have a clean slate the world is your oyster.

4. Give your children space.

This is the time to let them start to fly. Just like a mother bird pushes the baby out of the nest and they learn to fly this is what you too need to do. They are navigating a new life too and foraging their independence. You have to allow them the space to do that. Don’t call or text them every day. Give them space to figure things out on their own and trust that they will call you when they can and if they need you.  Believe me, they will reach out to you for advice.  They haven’t forgotten who taught them everything they know.

5. Accept change.

This is probably going to be the most difficult part. Change can be hard because it is unpredictable.  Yet this is a good thing.  It is a natural and necessary part of life. Trust that you will find your way through this and discover a fresh new life waiting for you on the other side. In the meantime, stay busy by spending time with friends, taking a trip, or finally writing that book you’ve always wanted to. When you’re busy doing all the things YOU want to do, you may find that you don’t miss your kids quite as much as you thought you would.

You’ve worked hard to raise your children with strong values and sense of responsibility.

Trust that even though they will make mistakes, they will figure things out on their own, just as you did when you were their age. Letting go can be a brilliant new life for you!  It is time to look after you and discover who you are and what you want to be when you grow up.

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