Empty Nesting - Cynthia Weston
by Cynthia Weston, LMFT
Townsgate TherapistOctober 10th, 2013
What do you do with an empty nest?
Move to a new tree or gather new sticks? After all the many years of focusing so much of your attention on raising your kids you may wonder, “What am I going to do with myself now that they are gone?” You may be experiencing a plethora of feelings as they “fly the coop.” Emotions may vary from a sense of relief to feelings of panic. Self-reflection often comes with your adult child's departure. Each parents experience will be unique when the young adult child leaves the nest. Well, one thing is for sure when they fly your life will change. How much it changes depends on many factors.
You Have Other Children Still at Home
If you have other children still at home you might spend this time giving a little more attention to the kids still there. Your nest has a bit more room and this in itself changes the dynamics in the family system. Alliances, connections and family roles may change. Realizing that the kids still at home may now feel a sense of empowerment or a sense of loss are aspects to consider. Talk to your kids about what its like for them to have a sibling leave for college. Ask them how it feels for them to be the oldest in the house now? What is it like for them to experience this change? Asking these questions may open up communication and be a great way to draw close with them during these changing times.
Your Last or Only Adult Child is Leaving
If your last or only child has left home you may be reflecting on aspects of your life that you have not looked at until now. Some of you may be “beside yourself.” You might be wondering “What is my purpose, what can I do and what does the future hold for me?” This can be a wonderful time of looking into ourselves on a much deeper level. It can be a time to consider how you can create a new atmosphere of change. It can also be a very painful time as our last or only child is beginning their own life and making their own choices for their future. They are soaring with wings we do not share, to places we cannot go.
So now what? Remember this is “your” time. “My time” you ask? We can choose to live in the “empty nest” alone and lonely or we can fly out and gather new insights about who we are at this juncture. We can build a new foundation and a new structure. The success or failure of this time in our life is completely dependent on how willing we are to face our ourselves and our truths. We can choose to soar like an eagle or squawk like a chicken in the process. We may even do a little of both. We may need a little help in facing what we have put on hold for so long. If this is the case… Its ok. There is no blueprint on child rearing or empty nest syndrome, but there is help available. Remember our kidʼs watch what we do and how we handle ourselves in all our life transitions. As our kids have been our teachers, we have and will continue to be theirs.
You Have a Spouse or Partner at Home With You
For those of us that have a spouse or partner at home we may be looking forward to this time together. We may already have plans of how we will spend the next chapter of our lives. If we have kept a positive balance between our relationship and our parenting we are ready to fly tandem in our life. There are those of us also that have lost a connection with our mate and have been distracted by all the aspects of life and child rearing. When our kids leave, we are left looking at someone we have lived with for many years only to say… “Who are you? Who are we?” Yes, it happens. Now you have new choices and together you can discover or rediscover what you once had many moons ago. Another possibility is creating something that you may never have had to begin with. You can choose to fly side by side creating a cozy nest for the two of you.
On the other hand there may be those of us that really struggle to rekindle, connect or reconnect in a way that encourages a healthy relationship. This can be a difficult time for some couples. Willingness on both our parts is whatʻs needed along with a climateof support. Learning how to balance individual goals along with goals that include the two of you is key. Sometimes it can feel a little uncomfortable because so much of what you have put on the back burner is now glaring. There is hope and healing for many couples. Life can take on many new adventures and discoveries. Change is inevitable and change can be good.
You Have Worked Outside the Home During Child Rearing
If you are a parent who has worked outside the home while raising your children it may be a little easier as you send off your flock. You may have an easier time due to your outward focus and job responsibilities. Many jobs create purpose and meaning allowing for a sense of value. Sometimes along with employment comes guilt. When your kids leave you may feel you were not home enough and now they are launching into their own lives. Taking time to understand what we are experiencing is important and many of these feelings are normal in these transitions. What is most important is that you look at the time you have spent and the dedication and love you have shared with your kids on this path called parenting. You too may discover ways to feel proud of what you have helped to accomplish in your adult child's life.
You Have Always Been a Stay at Home Parent
Ok… now for you stay at home parents where every waking day was dedicated to being home with your children. Are you feeling a sense of relief? Are you wondering if “relief” is a feeling that you as a parent are allowed to admit feeling? The answer may be yes because there does come a time in our lives when having your own space and room to spread your wings is needed. Your children have had you lock stock and barrel. They have had you at their beck and call. You now get to find out what you are all about. You can redefine your role in the world and find aspects of yourself you may never have even known you have. Trust that life has change for good reason. The time has arrived to take on new challenges, new ideas and attending to what has been placed on the back burner.
Congratulations!! You have survived part of the journey called parenting. You have been dedicated to encouraging your child to become self sufficient, independent, motivated and esteemed. As your kids move forward with their lives hopefully we as well. Equally important is how we create a positive lifestyle for ourselves. Part of what we hope to instill in our kids is a strong sense of standing on their own two feet. Just knowing that they can weather the storm and make good decisions for themselves is comforting. We too as parents have the same opportunity to embrace our own independence and make good decisions for our future. Both as parents and as young adults we hope for a positive transition as separation takes place. Our kids need to know that we too will be ok finding purpose and meaning for our lives. They will watch and observe how well you design your nest without them. They will be glad to know that you survived the storm and flew above the clouds into the sunshine of your life. This will give them great hope for their future template that will help them to fly to the highest heights!