The time has finally come for your last or only child to move out of the house. This can seem like a big step, but take heart. These days, kids have a tendency to move back home again more than once. On a more serious note, this can be a time of mixed emotions for you. You may be happy for your child and excited for what is ahead but also sad that your life is going to change forever. There are several things you can do to prepare and make the most of this time.
Starting to think about what you want to do with the rest of your life while your child is still in high school. The years will pass very quickly, and you can lay the groundwork for what you want to do next in this time. You have spent all these years keeping your kids healthy and managing their needs so diligently it will take some time to adjust to the increase in their self-sufficiency and eventual departure from your home.
Have a Project
One thing to consider is what to shift your focus to. Maybe you want to really concentrate on your career now, or maybe you want to train for a marathon or take a trip. You could even go back to school. This is an option that might not have crossed your mind if your own kid is headed off to college, but if you’ve always wanted to finish a degree or get a new one, this is a great time to do it.
You can get matched through Going Merry scholarships and grants to help you cover the costs. In addition, student loans are available to repay after graduation. As a caveat, though, if you happen to attend classes on the same campus as your child, be sure to give them plenty of space. This is a time for them to stretch their wings and test their independence, and you don’t want to interfere with that.
If you and your child’s parents are still together, this is a great time to reconnect with one another. One of the reasons long-term marriages often end once the children grow up is that parents realize that they have been intensely focused on the kids and have grown apart in that time. You can discuss what you’d like your life to be like in the years ahead and start making an effort to participate in one another’s hobbies. This is also a great time to start reconnecting with friends you may have fallen out of regular contact with while you were focusing on the family.
Making the Transition Easier
The transition from an actively involved parent to one with an empty nest can be the most difficult part. Here are some tips on dealing with the sense of loss and emptiness that might creep in at this time:
Accept that this is the right time and place
It may seem tempting, but avoid focusing on how your child’s future plans or timetable could have been different. If they’re happy with a college that’s further away from hope, don’t think that they should have chosen a local college. Your own experience and expectations might be vastly different from that of your offspring, and it’s important to respect these differences. In place of thinking about what could have been, focus on helping and supporting your children on their path to success (whichever way they want to pursue it).
Stay in touch with the kids
While you might be reconnecting with your partner and old friends, it’s also nice to plan how you will keep in touch with the children who’ve flown the nest. Set up a time for a call, ask when they’re free to chat–perhaps you can even set up a few in-person visits throughout the year. Just because an adult child is leaving home, it doesn’t mean that they have to be disconnected from their parents at home.
Fortunately, there are so many ways to stay connected these days. A couple of text messages at odd times, a picture of something you’ve cooked, or an old picture to refresh memories can all be good choices for staying in touch with your kid.
Get support if you need it
Don’t hold back on your feelings–if you’re feeling sad, depressed, alone, confused, or any other heavy emotion, let it out. If you don’t have a loved one nearby to lean on, seek out a support group for people in your situation. Remember, don’t ignore any depressive or suicidal thoughts; in these cases, contact a healthcare team immediately.
Make a list of the positives
Instead of dwelling over what you’re going to lose, think of all that you will gain. With the children out of the house, you can have a lot more time, energy, and space to work with. You can take on challenges, strike out on a new path in your life, or just enjoy some peace and quiet for a change. In addition to this, you can look forward to your children’s visits back home, with quality family time and different experiences to share with each other.
It can be hard to let go of your kids even when you’re looking forward to more space, free time, and some new beginnings. It’s important to try to cultivate the right mindset for this transition. Remember that this is a sign that you’ve done your job as a parent correctly. You’ve taught your child to be independent and given them the confidence to head out into the world. Remember as well that you will never stop being a parent and there will always be times when your child still needs you, even if your role is a different one. This shift to relating to one another as adults can be exciting and rewarding as well.