After headhunting for universities, going on tours, filling out applications, dorm shopping, and moving into the dorm room, your college kid is finally settled into the college life. You were there throughout the whole shebang, providing all the support your kid needed. It’s hard to believe how quickly that period can go by! And now? Now, you suddenly feel it: the emptiness in your home causing an emptiness in your heart.
Loneliness, sadness, and grief are very common among empty nesters. Follow the tips below to quiet those not-so-good feelings.
Embrace Your Emotions
The sudden realization that you will no longer be the superhero saving day when they scrape up their knees is a tough one. No one gave better hugs than they did, either! Change is a hard thing to cope with, but every parent faces this moment sooner or later. There’s no shame in caring about your kids. Be as sad as you need to be!
Accepting your emotions is the first step to overcoming them. Freely expressing your sadness in the beginning will allow you to get used to the empty nest life. In a society where boys are raised to “act tough,” empty nester dads should especially follow this advice. It’s okay to feel sad. It’s usually the most caring and loving parents who get it the hardest with empty nest syndrome. Don’t view your sadness as a negative trait, see it as a reflection of how good of a parent you are.
Keep Yourself Busy
Now that you’ve acknowledged your sadness, you aren’t going to mope around all day, are you? Do whatever you need to do that gets you active and moving. Doing chores, working out, going on a walk are all great options to keep the sadness at bay. Physical activity increases serotonin levels aka happy chemicals. These activities may seem like distractions from the sadness, and that’s because they essentially are! Your mind will forget about those empty nest emotions when you’re deeply focused on a task.
Set New Goals
fygböxIn addition to getting your daily dose of physical activity in, consider setting new goals for yourself. Don’t look at your empty nest life as the end of an era, look at it as a new era full of opportunity. You now have more time on your hands than ever before now that your flock is living life independently and away from home.
Now is the time to do the things you’ve always wanted to do. Travel to that country, take that language class, write that blog, do that marathon! Your options are limitless.
Raising a tiny little baby into a full-grown adult human is quite the accomplishment! All that hard work deserves a reward. Whenever the empty nest sadness looms, don’t hesitate to do whatever will make you happy in that present moment. Have a spa day, go on a shopping spree, give yourself a bigger-than-usual scoop of ice cream! Of course, practice these acts of “self-care” in moderation.
Nothing alleviates sadness more effectively than connecting with a real human being, whether it’s your spouse, a close friend, or other empty nest parents going through the same situation you are. Turn to someone who you can truly vent to about what’s on your mind without any judgement. There are plenty of online communities, like Grown and Flown, that have veteran empty nest parents to connect with.
Obviously, you can reach out to your kids too. Just don’t be a helicopter parent and call them too often. They do have their own lives to live! An occasional catch up call will do. You can even send your college kid a college care package to let them know how much you miss and support them.