Empty Nest

When I read Donna’s “Niagra Falls” post, it reminded me of the day my parents dropped me off at college.  I am the youngest in the family, and the only girl.  For both my parents, they admittedly found it hardest to let go of their “last” child, and to leave a girl alone on a college campus surrounded by college boys.

Unlike Donna, my parents’ tears were not finished when they got to the car.  It took them the better part of a year to navigate being “empty nesters.”   There were a lot of individual adjustments to make as relationships changed.  If you’re in the same boat, know that there are a few things you can do to help yourself adjust.

  • Recognize that parenthood is an evolution.  It changes constantly, but it never goes away.  Your new parenting role involves helping your child make big decisions about things like careers and significant others.  You don’t stop being a parents, you just change phases.
  • Don’t focus on the fact that your child is moving away.  Focus on the fact that your child is moving toward his or her own life.  Be proud that as a parent, you contributed to all this growth!
  • Fall in love all over again.  If you have a significant other, one large adjustment in the empty nest phase can be getting used to being “just the two of you” again.  View this as a time to rediscover each other.  Go on a date, take the time to hear about each other’s days, or just enjoy watching the six o’clock news uninterrupted!
  • Get involved.  If you find yourself twiddling your thumbs now that your kiddos are all gone, consider doing something you’ve always wanted to do.  Take up a hobby, volunteer your time, or even get that storage room in the basement sorted out.  Do something that will make you feel good about the way you’re spending your extra time.

Are there any empty nesters out there with advice of their own? – Molly Luchtel

Donna Donald

Donna Donald is a Human Sciences specialist for Iowa State University Extension and Outreach who has spent her career working with families across the lifespan. She believes families are defined by function as well as form. Donna entered parenthood as a stepmother to three daughters and loves being a grandmother of seven young adults.

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