5 things to keep in mind when becoming an empty nester

empty nesters

Being a parent is easily one of the most rewarding roles in life, but things change when it’s finally time for the kids to leave the nest. This time can carry a whirlwind of emotions, but it is important to adjust to this change in a healthy way. Dr. Yazhini Srivathsal, psychiatrist at Banner Behavioral Health Hospital, shares with us 5 things to keep in mind during this new journey.

1. Remember that it’s okay to be sad.

Many parents initially feel sadness, loss of purpose or identity and/or grief about their decreased role in their child’s life. It is important to realize that these feelings are totally normal. The change in dynamic is a big one, and emotions are expected to follow. No matter how difficult it may be, try to accept these feelings rather than fight them - they won’t last forever. Although you might miss having your kids as a part of your everyday life, understand they will always be your kids and they will always love you.

It might be helpful to seek peer guidance as well. Chances are you have friends who are feeling the exact same way. Using these friendships as a support network can be very valuable.

2. Try not to worry & give them space.

As a parent, worrying might come naturally. This habit might take some time to break, but it is a necessary step. Figuring out how you will keep in touch can initially be confusing. It might take some time to find what will work best for you and your children. Some might want to text or call every hour, every day, a few times a week or maybe even less depending on their schedule. This is all normal. Give them space but let them know you are always eager to hear about their new adventures and there to help them through any challenges.

Part of this process of growing up may involve your kids making mistakes and learning lessons. If they make a bad decision, let them take responsibility for it. You can be there for support or to even offer some advice if they ask, but, ultimately, let them figure it out on their own. Yes, it might hurt to see them make poor choices, but rescuing them repeatedly might really be a disservice to them in the long-term. Trust that you have raised them well, and now it is their turn to be responsible and grow.

3. Utilize this time to re-discover yourself.

This can be an excellent opportunity to explore your interests and try things you never had the chance to try before or rediscover a long-lost hobby. It is important to replace meaningfulness when it is lost by coming up with a new sense of purpose and priorities.

Research has shown that being creative helps people relax, while also providing a sense of purpose and accomplishment. So, get to it! Volunteer, train for a marathon, learn a new language or set another goal for yourself.

4. Explore your relationship again.

If you are sharing this new chapter with a spouse or partner, it can be used as an opportunity to reconnect. Without the responsibilities of taking care of children in the home, this can be much easier to do. Take time to explore new hobbies together, travel and go on dates. Discuss with each other what you want in your relationship.

Rebuilding the relationship without children as a constant in the home can be difficult and requires a real effort from both parties. Come up with a shared sense of purpose. Be open about what your needs and expectations are when it comes to intimacy. When it comes to being intimate with your partner, understand that, with age, it is normal to have new sexual health concerns, and it is important to talk to your physician about these and any other questions you may have.

Beyond the relationship with your partner, schedule dinner with friends, invite people over or host parties to strengthen those relationships in your life.

5. Have fun!

Remember to enjoy this time. You have raised your children to be self-reliant and that is something to celebrate. Most importantly – don’t feel guilty about having fun! By doing all of these things for yourself, you are actually setting a great example for your children and teaching them the valuable lesson that you are never too old to grow and pursue your passions.

Regardless of these tips to keep in mind – if you are still struggling during this big life change, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Visit doctors.bannerhealth.com to find help near you.

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