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You don’t abruptly stop being your adult child’s parent. They may not need you every day, but will always need a connection to you and occasional advice or encouragement. Maintain this connection with regular communication, but learn to gauge the difference between times your input is necessary and days your child needs their own space.
A wonderful aspect of modern life is that there are so many ways to stay in touch with a child in college or living on their own. Potential avenues of communication include everything from old-school phone calls and letters to texting and Facebook. Before your child leaves home, make a plan to communicate at least once a week. If he wants to stay more in touch at first, but then this frequency falls off, do not feel neglected or forgotten. This is natural as he adjusts to their own new situation.
Your child is entering a new phase of their life, and so are you. It’s natural for you to feel lonely for a while as you adjust to your new circumstances, but it’s important to remember that there are positive aspects of this change. Along with less laundry and grocery shopping to do, you’ve also got more time for yourself.
Think about what you want to do with the next act of your life. Spend more time on enjoyable activities that you scaled back while raising your family. If you gave up your career years ago, consider reprising. Getting out will help you to feel less lonely, so take some classes, join a club, or volunteer for a cause you care about. Cultivate new interests by trying activities that your friends and neighbors enjoy.
You also have more time to spend with your friends, siblings, and other loved ones. If your friendships have fallen by the wayside, try to revive some of them, especially with other budding empty nesters you may know. Become more involved at your place of worship. Make new friends by joining clubs or participating in new activities.
If you are married, the two of you now have more time for one another. You may find that this key relationship needs anything from a simple renaissance to some heavy-duty work. In the first case, the two of you are free to revive your romance and return to activities you once enjoyed regularly together.
In other cases, you may discover that in your role as parents, you have fallen into a kind of détente of necessity that has masked unresolved conflict and resentment. Try to communicate honestly and work it out, or consider couples counseling.
Resist the temptation to keep everything in your home or your child’s room like a museum where time stands still. Hold on to your child’s cherished possessions, but feel free to tidy up or even redecorate. If you’re sure the nest is empty for good, set up the guest room or music room you’ve always wanted.
Consider moving altogether, possibly to a smaller house or condominium where less maintenance is required. Especially if you are retired, you now have a perfect opportunity to relocate to an area that is better for your health or more pleasant. Warm, sunny places tend to cater to empty nesters. For example, there are many small houses and condominiums across 55 communities in Orange County, California, which is known for its beaches and relaxed lifestyle.
If you’ve tried some of the things above and thought about the situation as positively as you can, but you are still feeling blue, don’t bury your feelings. Talk with friends and loved ones who have been through this too, including your own parents. Seek out a local or online empty nester support group.
If you are still struggling no matter what, ask yourself whether you are experiencing symptoms of depression. Some empty nesters find professional counseling helpful.
You will always be a parent, but you are also a person capable of many other roles, too. Be assured that, one way or another, you will make the adjustment to this new chapter of your life.