Consider the following story as it relates to this week’s topic.
Last month, our oldest, Brian, left for his first year of college. It was a day I knew would come but was never quite ready to face. Even though we still have two other kids at home, Brian’s absence feels heavy for me. There’s no more, “Hey Mom! I’m home!” or “Hey Mom and Dad, I’m going out with the guys, be back later!” It’s only been three weeks and I miss him like crazy already! My husband seems to be handling it well and tells me that I’ll get used to it soon. I don’t know if I will, though. Is there anything I can do to make this experience easier to handle?
Although it may be surprising, one of the hardest stages in the life of a parent is when their child leaves home. Whether it’s for college, a career in another city, or simply them wanting to move out to be on their own, many parents feel the absence quite significantly.
You might tear up as you walk past their empty bedroom, drive past their old school, or long to hear their voice in the halls of your home. Finding the whole empty nest situation upsetting and difficult is perfectly normal and happens to millions of parents in the United States.
It may be difficult when it happens to you, but it’s something you can prepare for and cope with. At Rice Psychology Group, our licensed psychologists and therapists in Tampa would like to go over some coping techniques to help you get through your empty nest period.
According to author Melissa T. Schultz, parents who cope with their empty nest most easily are those who plan ahead. She suggests for parents to spend some time on themselves while their children are still living at home.
Dr. Carin Rubinstein, professor of psychology at Pima College, echoes this. Rubinstein surveyed one thousand empty nest mothers and learned that the women who coped best had increased their work hours, gone back to work, or picked up new interests.
The Sadness is Fleeting
Rubenstein’s findings revealed that nine out of ten empty nest mothers moved on from the feelings of sadness within a couple of months of their child’s departure. In most cases, parents begin to feel like they have their life back and their sadness then turns into relief, which then results in joy.
This process generally takes anywhere between six and nine months. Although, in some cases, joy is felt soon after the child leaves. According to Rubenstein, a parent’s life can be much better once the nest is empty.
Reflect on the Change and be Gentle
One of the most important things parents have to keep in mind is that a child leaving home is a big change. They are transitioning from childhood into adulthood. This very real sense of loss can be an emotional shock for parents.
So, be gentle with yourself after your child leaves. Don’t force yourself into “getting over” your feelings of missing them. Instead, take pride in their move, reflect on how well they’ve done for themselves, and learn to accept the change at your own pace, no matter how long it takes.
Direct Your Attention Elsewhere
Children require an enormous amount of your attention throughout the years as you raise them. Therefore, it’s not surprising if in that time you disconnect from relationships with friends or family. You might consider looking at this time as a blessing in disguise; with your child no longer living at home, you can focus on reconnecting, reinvigorating, and maintaining these relationships.
Know How and When to Communicate
As soon as your child moves out, you may feel an immediate urge to call or text them (frequently!) just to make sure everything is okay. Maybe even more than once per day! This urge is understandable, but your child will need some breathing room. Remember that this change is new to them, too! So, make sure to ask them how they prefer to be reached and text, call, or video chat with them when it isn’t intrusive.
Schedule Your Appointment with Us in Tampa
Coping with an empty nest is something not many parents want to face. Know that our Tampa-based team of licensed psychologists and therapists is always here to help. Whether you’re coping with your child’s looming departure or any other stress-causing situation, we’ll listen and help. Get in touch with us in Tampa to learn more about our services.