Leaving home can be difficult for a young adult, but it can be even harder for the parents they leave behind. Parenting has probably been your main focus for (at least) the past 18 years of your life, and that’s about to change. Coping with that isn’t easy. But there are some things you can do to ease the discomfort of this transition.
You’ll definitely miss your kid; but don’t let that sadness blind you from all the good parts about them leaving home. This isn’t an ending, it’s a new beginning. You’re about to start a new chapter of your life with fewer things to tie you down. How great is that?
Here are some things you should do once your kids have moved out. Some of these will help you to cope with loss in a healthy way, while others are simply practical pieces of advice for this new chapter. There are also some suggestions for fun and fulfilling ways to spend your free time — you’ll definitely have more of it!
Give yourself time
This transition is a big deal. It’s completely natural to feel overwhelmed, scared or saddened when your kids leave home. Don’t rush yourself through coping with this change. Allow yourself the time and space to process your new situation, and have compassion for yourself while you do.
Make a plan to keep in touch
Just because your child has left home doesn’t mean your relationship has to leave with them. You may not talk as often as you used to, but make a mutual plan to keep in touch. For some parents and children that means talking on the phone every day, while for others that might mean a weekly check-in over FaceTime.
No two families are the same; talk with your child to figure out what degree of contact will feel the most supportive to their new life. Make sure it’s a schedule you both agree to and make a point to stick to it!
Get support if you need it
Empty nest syndrome, a condition characterized by a period of immense grief after a child leaves home, is more common than you might think. Especially since it often occurs in conjunction with other stressful life events (such as menopause and retirement), this condition can be difficult to deal with on your own. Don’t be afraid to seek out support if you need it, either from friends, family or a professional counselor.
Get rid of clutter
When a child leaves home, some parents find themselves feeling resistant to toss any of their belongings, even if these items are mostly meaningless clutter. Don’t fall into this trap. Once you have an empty nest, be proactive and get rid of extra belongings you have lying around.
Donate old clothes, organize your kitchen, put things into storage and free up space around your home. Avoid creating a shrine out of your child’s old bedroom. It’s OK to keep some of their stuff, but be selective about what you choose to save!
Make a list of things you want to do
You’re about to have a lot more time and energy at your disposal. How would you like to spend it? Think about all the things you always wished you had time for and write them down. Did you wish you had time to read more? Did you want to train for a race or other event? Organize your thoughts and pick a few things to tackle at a time. Now’s your chance!
Refrain from making big decisions right away
Until you’ve adjusted, it’s best not to make any drastic or irreversible decisions. Moving to a smaller home or changing career paths might be in your best interest, but give it a few months before you make the leap. In a time of emotional transition, it can be tempting to be impulsive. But these decisions are best made after you’ve adapted and feel more secure.