It is August. It is ground zero for the empty nest transition.
I don’t mean to scare you. You’ve probably done enough of that yourselves. But let’s face it, dear friends, if you haven’t planned for this transition already, it is D-Day for you. Your teen is leaving home to begin college, right NOW.
Whether this is your first child to leave the nest or the last one, it represents a life transition, a change in the family and relationships. That does not have to be a BAD thing! It is simply something different.
The Empty Nest: A Syndrome or a Transition?
I see a lot of articles online about the “empty nest syndrome”. There’s even a lot in the psychological/psychiatric literature about this “syndrome.” While those writing about it acknowledge that it is not a clinical condition (that might require treatment), just the word “syndrome” makes it sound like something that you need to be cured of! I prefer to call it the empty nest transition. After all, that is really all it is. It represents a change in family dynamics, in how we relate to each other as family members. A change in who lives in the family home and who lives away.
The teenagers fledging from the nest right now will basically live life as they see fit. They will be challenged in college with all kinds of different ideas and philosophies. They will make new friends and experience things outside of their family or origin environment. They will be young adults, making their own way in the world.
And you, well you will soon see a change in your relationship with your adult child. You will see them grow as adults and learn to take on the challenges that the world throws at them. You will be proud of the way they handle themselves in today’s world.
Yes, of course, they will still need you and your guidance, so don’t worry about that. They will ask for your advice, maybe not about their math homework, but about things that matter in life and sometimes about little problems.
When my oldest daughter decided to attend a university in our hometown she decided to live home to save money. Well, after about a month of living with a college student who was all of sudden “adulting” by staying out later and resetting the home alarm when she got home, I decided the saved money just wasn’t worth the lack of sleep for the rest of the household. We decided to rent her an on-campus apartment. My daughter would call about things like “I tried to start the dishwasher but it didn’t turn on.” My reply to her about all the apartment related questions was “Call your manager.” She learned to handle these little life annoyances like a pro after a short period of time. She became confident in handling things for herself.
The beauty of this time of change in your relationship with your college student, is you get to see the change in them too. You’ll watch as they become independent young adults and know that you did everything you could to prepare them for this wonderful time in their lives.
Now does that sound like something that needs to be cured? I don’t think so either. So let’s refer to this “empty nest” as a life transition in a whole long line of transitions, changes, development, growth. Let’s change our mindsets to the empty nester life. Change is inevitable now and this empty nest transition to a new lifestyle can be and should be exciting!
There are adjustments to be made during this empty nest transition. Especially, if your youngest child is the one leaving for college. After you drive your teen to the college campus and help with move-in day, you drive home alone or perhaps with only your significant other. There is a quietness now, something that you may have to adjust to hearing. Perhaps, there is sadness or even tears. After you arrive home to this new quieter environment, it may seem lonely…or it may just seem new, something to be glad about.
You now have time to explore all the possibilities and opportunities that this new empty nest transition affords you. You have time to find out who you really are again. You no longer have the day-to-day responsibilities of a full-time mom. What I mean is, you don’t have to make sure your teen gets to all the many activities a high school teenager has these days. You don’t have to have a meal on the table at a certain time just so your teen can make it to a sports practice on time. You don’t have to engage in high school fundraising activities for the sports or band or theatre groups anymore. The bottom line is, you likely have a lot more time on your hands. You may even lose touch with other moms who had the same responsibilities you had but have moved on to other things now.
You will have some adjustments to make. And you will make some amazing discoveries about yourself! It’s time for YOUR Empty Nester Adventure!
My Top 10 Tips for Making the Empty Nest Transition
- Give yourself some time to adjust to the changes in your empty nest transition. Things will feel differently. Give yourself the grace you need, especially at first. You may be tearful from time to time especially when you pass your teen’s room and see that it’s mostly empty or when you see the empty chair at the dinner table. This is ABSOLUTELY NORMAL! You may feel sad. You may shed a few tears. But remember, “This Too Shall Pass.” It is a normal part of this life change, but it won’t go on forever. Now, if you’re crying at the drop of a hat a month or two after your teen goes off to college, you may want to seek help from a mental health professional. That would be appropriate. An objective person to listen to you can really help when you’re feeling down most days out of the week. But most of you will be able to adjust in a short period of time and move on to focusing on other things.
- Give some thought to which activities you might like to do. What are some things you’ve wanted to do but never had the time for? What kind of things have you wanted to try but never did?
- Make a list of those things you’re interested in and want to take up again or do for the first time. Do you want to travel more? Now you don’t have to limit your travel to your kids’ school vacation time! You can save money by traveling on “shoulder seasons” or “off-peak” seasons. Maybe you love crafts such as crocheting or re-finishing furniture. More time on your hands means more time to fulfill your crafting dreams! Do you want to learn something new? Take a course in whatever interests you! Attend a cooking school to learn authentic Italian cooking! Heck! Take a trip to Italy with your girlfriends to learn Italian cooking from real Italians! The point is to make a list of things that would excite you and then…
- Take action! Want to improve your health? Join a cycling group or take a yoga class and DO THOSE THINGS! Experience different activities to learn which ones you want to incorporate into your new lifestyle as you make this empty nest transition.
- Maintain relationships! Make it a point to go out on a “date night” with your spouse or significant other. It is especially important at this particular empty nest transition time to communicate with and experience things with those persons who are important to you. Your spouse is likely feeling the significant difference in the household environment too. Experiencing things as a couple will strengthen your relationship. Do favorite activities that you enjoy as a couple and try some new things too. This will help create a stronger bond between the two of you simply because this new activity/experience is something that only the two of you will share together! Don’t forget to keep up with your girlfriends too! Some acquaintances may naturally fall away because there is no longer some common shared interest. For instance, some of those you may know through a school booster club you may no longer see. However, your true friends will still be around. Nurture those friendships. Have lunch once a week, or plan a girl trip!
- Make new friendships too! As you begin to branch out to experience new things you’ve always wanted to try, you will naturally meet new people too. Make a point to find out more about them. Ask questions. Almost everyone loves to talk about themselves with someone who shows an interest in them. In fact, if you’re on the introverted or shy side, this is one of the BEST ways to communicate with and learn more about new people. It takes a little pressure off and you won’t feel like you need to do all the talking. You may learn of other common activities, likes, friends, etc. In time, you may have a new friend to do things with. The more, the merrier!
- Explore your possibilities/opportunities. When was the last time you did something for the first time? Think about this question. If you can’t remember the last time you did something completely new, then the time is NOW! Make a list of things/activities that you are scared to do. Go on. Make your list! When you’ve given this some thought and made your list, pick one thing on your list and just DO THAT THING! Of course, you’re scared. You’ve never done this before. Everyone is at least a little nervous when they have no experience in an activity. Is this activity something you need to learn to do beforehand? Or is it something you can learn as you do it? Do you need to take a class? Perhaps you want to become a photographer; look up classes at your local community college or take an online class. You can do this! Maybe you’re afraid to join your friends when they go white water rafting. I remember when my husband wanted to go rafting down the Snake River in Wyoming. Was I scared? Duh, YES! I had never done this before or even thought about doing it. But it was intriguing. So, I put on my “big girl panties” AND my helmet and life jacket and away we went! To my surprise, I did NOT fall out of the raft. In fact, it was so much FUN! Sometimes you have to just face your fears and DO THE THINGS! Since then, doing other things for the first time hasn’t been quite as scary for me and I suspect that it will be that way for you too!
- Explore more of the world! I suspect most of you have traveled before, even if it’s just been to see the relatives in another state or a family vacation to a place your kids loved. That’s all fine and good. But now is the perfect time to explore the world a little bit more. You now have the freedom to travel whenever you want. You can go places that you’ve put off seeing either because your kids wanted to go somewhere else or because you simply couldn’t afford to take the whole family. This is YOUR TIME! Never been to New England? Plan a fall leaf tour there. You don’t have to plan your trip around your kids ANYMORE! After all, there are wonderful places to see and spend time in that just explode with beauty at times besides in the summer. Maybe you’re interested in traveling outside the USA. THERE IS SO MUCH TO SEE OUT THERE IN THIS BIG WORLD OF OURS! Make a personal bucket list of places you have always wanted to see no matter where they are in the world. Then pick the one place that you want to visit the most and start planning! What about the Cotswolds in England? Or Glacier National Park? Or maybe even Japan or New Zealand? It doesn’t matter where you want to go, just start planning, make a budget, save the money you need, make the travel arrangements yourself or pay for a guided tour if that feels more comfortable to you. And JUST GO! EXPLORE!
- Learn something new. Learning new things keeps you more engaged in life and the world. Learning something new will enhance your personal growth during your empty nest transition time. The more you learn, the more you grow. What can I learn about you may be asking? Well, you can learn about the history of your part of the world. You can learn a new skill that might help you to get a job in your area of interest. You could learn a new language to prepare for that amazing trip you’re planning. You can simply buy a “Word A Day” calendar and learn a new word and how to use it every day. You can learn whatever you darn well, please! Besides, you have to be able to keep up with that young adult who will come home to visit before you know it!
- Make your life an adventure! You may have noticed that the name of my blog is Adventures Beyond the Nest. We all know that life, when the kids are living at home, is definitely an adventure because you never know what will happen next! But the empty nest transition means another type of adventure. A little more relaxed, perhaps slower and laid back, but most of all, an adventure as YOU define it. It’s a time to live with intention. A time for you to do what you want when you want, and how you want. Whether that means jet-setting all over the world or simply taking time for a cup of tea in the morning air out on the patio, smelling the flowers and watching the butterflies before heading out for that new job you love or diving into your online language studies. It’s up to you. Choose your own adventures for now and even beyond your empty nest transition.
“And So the Adventure Begins.”
That’s right! The adventure begins for your young adult going off to college and adventure also begins for you. Embrace this empty nest transition time as your own adventure. It’s all about your mindset. Think of it as an adventure and it will be.
The other day I was shopping in town and found a wonderful bottle for keeping liquids hot or cold. Since I didn’t want to keep it to myself, I searched for it online and found it on Amazon! So now, I can share it with you! The bottle is beautifully colored and keeps liquid hot for 12 hours and cold for 24 hours. I mostly use it for cold water now and take it with me everywhere! You can get dehydrated pretty easily up here in Colorado! And what do you suppose the bottle says? “And so the Adventure Begins.” I just LOVE having this reminder of adventures ahead with me all day. I KNOW you’re going to LOVE it too!! I’m so sure you will love it that I’m providing you with a link to the product. Here’s the link.
Just click the link and JOIN the ADVENTURE CLUB!!!
If you want to read more about empty nester adventures, here are some links to some of my most popular posts.
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