Parenting a child from a newborn to an adult is a long process that typically consumes nearly two decades of your life. Parenting multiple children involves an even greater time commitment beyond the double-decade mark.
With such a huge investment of time spent parenting, it's no wonder parents often feel a little bit lost when the day finally arrives when they are dropping off their youngest child at college. Learning how to navigate your new season of life will help you survive and even enjoy the empty nest.
Allow yourself time to adjust
It's okay to grieve and feel sad when your last child leaves home. You've invested a lot of years being a parent, and it's normal to feel a little lost when you are suddenly no longer in full-time parenting mode.
Give yourself a few weeks to transition into your new lifestyle. It's not uncommon for empty nesters to jump into commitments they are not prepared for or may regret later. If possible, resist making any major decisions or life changes in the first month.
This may be a good time to take a short vacation with your spouse or a friend. Focus on relaxation and getting adequate rest.
Accept your new season of life
Accepting something you can't change may seem obvious, but people often try to fight against change. Resisting change can lead to discontentment and discouragement.
How do you accept the empty nest? Realize you are still a parent but with a different role. You can still be there to offer advice when asked and to encourage your adult children when they need it.
Congratulate yourself on a job well done. Raising kids who eventually leave home and become responsible adults is the goal of parenting. Cherish the memories of parenting and resolve to move forward and embrace your new season with the anticipation of good things to come.
The empty nest season may only be temporary. Adult children may need to return home due to financial concerns. You may become a busy grandparent or need to care for an aging parent in the future. Cherish the free time you have now like an intermission between the busy stages of life, and make the most if it.
Do something for yourself
Raising children requires a lot of self-sacrifice. Parents tend to put their kids first and neglect their own needs and desires. Now, you have the opportunity to take care of yourself.
Work on your health by joining a gym or a weight loss group if you need to shed a few pounds. You may find it easier to focus on your health without the demands of parenting. You can prepare healthy meals you like, and you will have extra time to get in a daily workout or walk.
Visit your local adult education center and see what classes they offer that you may be interested in. The empty nest is a great time to embark on a new hobby or learn a new language. Many local and community colleges offer low-cost adult education classes in a wide variety of topics.
While the empty nest can be a huge adjustment, it can be one of the most rewarding and relaxing seasons of life. Give yourself time to adapt to the changes in your household at first, and then move forward. Embrace your new role in life and resolve to experience all the great things it has to offer.