“Empty Nest” Transition – What’s Next?

“Empty Nest” Transition – What’s Next?

The transition to an “empty nest” from a full one is a big one, to say the least.  While parents know the end goal is to help support their children become independent adults, the experience of their leaving home can be painful. Are they prepared? Are they strong enough? What was not taught that should have been? What is our role now that they are gone? Having them entrusted to us as their providers and protectors since day one makes It is hard to let go even when we know our job is done (mostly J).

One reason this transition is so difficult is that the family has changed and we were happy and comfortable with what it was.  Roles have changed, and we are not really sure what they are. Also, we miss being a part of our children’s daily lives and miss their companionship. We may even begin questioning – If they are not home to take care of, then who am I?

Adding to the stress of this time period are the other life-shaking events that may be occurring at the same time – parents are getting older and require care, careers are changing, or retirement is approaching, financial security is uncertain, health issues are appearing and so on. The culmination of all these events may cause feelings of being overwhelmed.  Loss, grief, and insecurity about the future may occur. Fortunately, people do find a way through this period and are able to find joy-filled lives that just looks a little different than before.

Helpful to moving forward during this transition is giving yourself plenty of time to step outside the chaos of life to reflect on the past and decide what is next.  This can be done for a small amount of time each day, or you can go away for a few days. Keep a journal. Pray or meditate. Celebrate your life-to-date, applaud yourself for what you think you’ve done well, grieve what has changed or for what you see as mistakes and then begin developing a new, exciting normal. Listed below are some prompts that may be helpful in your exploration –

  • Values – What is most important to me in life? What do I believe in? Once you can identify your values, you can determine what really matters to you and make moves in that direction.
  • Time – How do I want to spend my time? Look at how you are using your time now and find ways to create a more purposeful and enjoyable life. What do I add? What to take away?
  • Goals – It is easy to fill our time with whatever comes next and other people’s priorities. What is something you have you always had a desire to do but never had the time to do?
  • Relationships – Who do I need in my life that will support and encourage me? Who do I need to reconnect with? Disconnect from? Your relationship with your partner is changing, what does this new relationship look like?
  • Joy – What are the things that bring me joy? How can I add this into my life? (and no, you cannot move into the dorm!)

If you find yourself struggling with the empty nest transition and would like to talk with someone, consider contacting the Summit Counseling Center to make an appointment with a therapist who can help. Call 678-893-5300 to schedule your appointment today.