Now That The Kids Are Gone
20 Tips For Successful Transitions – When The Nest Becomes Empty
By Mark Webb
“Adolescence is perhaps nature’s way of preparing parents to welcome the empty nest.” ~ Karen Savage & Patricia Adams
1) Reinitiate Old Friendships and/or Begin New Ones. Get in touch with old fishing buddies. Call up the ladies in your Sunday school class. Seek out those friends who had have were pushed to the back burner while you were juggling the load of active parenting and working full time. If you would be better off making new friends for this phase of your life, think of ways to meet positive people and couples. Civic organizations, churches, and educational arenas are great places to start.
2) Broaden Your Horizons. Learn new things. Go to school and take classes of things you’ve always wanted to know more about. Study psychology, photography, woodworking, jewelry making, painting & etc. Take exercise or dance classes. Make the most of this opportunity.
3) Renew Your Wedding Vows. This could be an actual renewal in the form of a ceremony but I’m thinking more along the lines of making a concentrated decision to make your spouse your priority. What can you do to make your spouse feel special? What kinds of new adventures can you go on? Actively date your partner. This decision will have a major impact on the quality of your life for the rest of your life.
4) Give Yourself A Pat On The Back. Acknowledge the fact that you were successful in getting your child to this point of launching them into their independence. Your job isn’t over yet, parenting never ends, but you have reached this goal.
5) Make Use Of The Freed Up Space. You don’t want your child to feel like you’re pushing them out the door but consider ways to utilize their now vacant room. Don’t be one of those parents who sit in their child’s absent bedroom. Fresh paint on the wall and some new furnishings can ease feelings of missing your child. Pack up their stuff and put it in storage. It creates a sense of newness for you and your home. Perhaps a home gym, a craft room or a get away reading room would do the trick.
6) Don’t Wait Til The Last Minute. You know at some point your children will be leaving home. Prepare now.
7) Acknowledge Your Feelings. If you are sad; admit it to yourself. It’s okay to feel this way and the process of making this transition can take up to two years so don’t be too hard on yourself. Women tend to struggle with this change more than men. It hits men differently. Men tend to feel regretful for things they didn’t do and not spending more time with their children. Don’t dismiss your partner’s feelings if you aren’t feeling the same impact that they feel. You could alienate your partner and it would be wiser to connect with your partner emotionally.
8) Get A Dog. You are not limited to this choice but a dog is known as man’s best friend. You could get a fish tank but it probably won’t serve the purpose I have in mind. A dog and the responsibilities of having a pet will help to fill those lonely gaps and will provide great companionship.
9) Travel. Take a trip with your spouse. It’s a lot easier to get up and go when the children are gone. You can take spontaneous trips to the beach, the mountains or to some other vacation spot. Go see the places you have always dreamed of.
10) An Idle Mind Is The Devil’s Workshop. Many parents get so wrapped up in the raising of their children that they overlook themselves. They made sure their child built a life of their own but the parents neglected to have one of their own. Once your children leave the home, as parents, you will have a lot of free time to think. If you don’t have goals in mind, you are setting yourself up to get into trouble. Substance abuse and alcoholism are common. Neurotic worrying and unhealthy focuses can develop. Marriages often fall apart. This is why it is important to have a plan ahead of time.
11) Enjoy The Peace and Quiet. Do you remember the loud music and the blaring television? The loads of your children’s friends in and out of the house? Remember wondering if they were home by curfew? Yes, these may have been good times but at the time you would have liked some peace and quiet so now is your time. Enjoy it.
12) Send Care Packages. While shopping, pick up things you know your child would like or need; perhaps things that would make them feel pampered or special and mail them this surprise.
13) Make A Bucket List. Make a list of all the things you’ve wanted to do in your life and get out there and do them! Get your spouse and friends involved in this adventure of making great memories.
14) You’re Only A Call Away. If you miss your child and want to talk to them; call them. Encourage them to do the same. If something funny or interesting happens, call. If they have questions about how to wash clothes, tell them to call. Limit how often you call them. (By the way, kids respond faster to text messages.)
15) Seek Out Support. If you are having a hard time with this transition; you are not the only one. This is a common struggle for a lot of parents. If you are feeling depressed or feeling unable to get your life on track after your child leaves, strongly consider getting some help from a therapist, your pastor, your family physician.
16) Don’t Sit Back And Wait For Your Spouse To Make The Transition For You. Be proactive not reactive. If you know your spouse will act like a knot on a log, take the initiative yourself. Make plans for you and your spouse. Don’t allow your life and your marriage to become subject to negligence.
17) Enjoy The Perks! Now, you will have more accessibility to your computer. The grocery bill and the power bill are lower. You and your spouse can talk about things other than your children. There is hot water when you want it. The house stays clean and there is food in the refrigerator.
18) Downsizing. Consider the option of downsizing. Where do you want to live? Is moving to a smaller home a good idea? Do you want to relocate to be near the children and future grandchildren? Could you simply de-clutter your home instead of moving?
19) Don’t Put Guilt Trips On Your Children. Give your children the gift of allowing them to live their lives. Your children want you to miss them but don’t make them feel bad for seeking a life of their own. Change your role as an active parent and strive to become friends with your adult child.
20) Watch Out For Those Boomerang Kids. What are your thoughts about how to handle this possibility? If you haven’t thought this through, you could be setting yourself up trouble. Once a child returns, they tend to leave much slower the second time.
Mark Webb is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice at South Georgia Psychiatric and Counseling Center in Valdosta. Mark Webb is also the author of How To Be A Great Partner and founder of Partner Focused Relationships™. Sign up for Mark Webb’s “Relationship Strategies” Ezine ($100 Value). Mark Webb is the Relationship Specialist, his relationship advice and marital advice has helped many thru the years, let him guide you to a stronger healthier relationship.
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