Embracing the new in a time of transition
Attention empty nesters: For the past 18 or more years, your life has been consumed with parenting. From midnight feedings and diaper changes, to soccer games, birthday parties, driver education, homecoming, prom and graduation, your attention and focus have been exhausted on your children. Now that they’ve flown the coop and they’re experiencing life outside of the home, you might be looking around and wondering, what now? Take heart; you’re not alone. Most new empty nesters experience a wide range of emotions during this time of transition. While some experience sadness, anxiety and great loneliness, others thrive in discovering new freedoms. In all likelihood, your emotions will fluctuate, and that’s okay. It’s important to embrace this new time, to learn from it – and to set a positive tone for the years to come.
Here are a few things to try:
- Reconnect with your spouse. Recognize that stranger in the other room? Psst…it’s your spouse. A long time ago, you really liked that person. While your children undoubtedly brought a tremendous amount of joy to your life throughout the years, your relationship may have taken a backseat to your role as a parent. . Now is the time to right the ship. Go on dates, have breakfast together before work, book a weekend away and rediscover what attracted you to each other in the first place.
- Make plans. One way to help ease the angst of missing your son or daughter is to add some events to the calendar. While it might initially seem like a distraction technique, you’ll eventually learn the value of establishing a new identity for yourself. Make plans to have lunch or coffee with friends, take a vacation, volunteer or exercise. In short, get busy living.
- Accept and embrace your new life. Try not to pretend that your life hasn’t changed. It has And while change can be frightening, it doesn’t have to be paralyzing. It’s all about perspective. Learn to embrace the word “new”. Try something new, meet someone new, read something new, watch something new. It’s up to you to decide what you want your new life to look like.
- Let go of old routines. In the spirit of trying something new, now is a good time to examine your routines and decide what does and does not make sense anymore. Perhaps it’s no longer necessary to wake up at the crack of dawn to enjoy peace and quiet or head to Costco on a Saturday to stock up for the week. While your children will return home during breaks and you’ll see glimmers of your old life every once in a while, it’s okay to do things differently when they’re not home. Hint: If you want to eat dinner in front of the TV from now on, you can!
- Parent differently. Another thing that will inevitably change is your relationship with your child. You are now parenting an adult. You’ll need to establish new communication patterns and walk the fine line between independence and over-parenting. It’s not a perfect science and will likely require some trial and error as you both become accustomed to your new routines. Remember that independence is a good thing. It’s what you’ve worked so hard for. Let your children learn from it and enjoy it.
David Lowenstein, Ph.D. is a psychologist and the clinical director of Lowenstein & Associates, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to providing therapeutic services to individuals and families, he offers training and consultation to numerous associations, schools and agencies around the country. Additionally, he is a frequent radio and TV guest and a resource and contributing writer for numerous newspapers and magazines nationwide. Contact Dr. David Lowenstein at 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.