When the nest begins to empty, it can be overwhelming. You’re proud your child is off living their best life, but it’s also a heartache like no other. It seems like just yesterday they learned to hold hands while crossing the street. The thought of your child leaving felt so far away. But the time has arrived, and they’re off.
How do kids feel their parents are faring in their absence? Professor Karen L. Fingerman, Ph.D, posed the question to her newly minted college freshmen. Students thought their parents were devastated, yet the research revealed something different. Although parents work to find a new normal, they’re able to put more energy into other interests and relationships. Lest you think Mom is most affected by the transition, Dr. Helen DeVries’ research shows dads struggle most. She found most mothers took time to prepare for their child leaving whereas fathers regretted missed time and opportunities with their children when they were little.
Some parents welcome the empty nest. They spent decades putting their children’s needs before their own. These parents look at the bright side: They’ve raised capable adults going into the world to live their own lives.
What are the perks parents can look for while adjusting to their new lifestyle?
No longer tied to sporting events and slumber parties, freedom and time are both returned to your day. You can finally make yourself a priority. Register for that art class you’ve put off for—literally—decades. Join a book club. Plan a weekend to reunite with friends you haven’t seen in years. It’s okay to shift your focus onto things that make you happy, things you love to do or things you want to learn more about.
Marriages and other relationships tend to take a backseat when kids are little. As they grow, their demands on our time can mean bonds with spouses and friends go unnurtured. But these relationships matter. Your schedule just opened up a little, so you now have the opportunity to meet new friends, forge new relationships or rekindle old flames.
The parent and child relationship is a beautiful evolution. In healthy circumstances, parents go from watchful overseers to confidants dispensing advice when asked. We learn so much from our children. That doesn’t end the day they move out. They’ll have new experiences, shape opinions and discover their passions. An adult child’s excitement about what life has taught them brings a sense of parenting fulfillment like no other.
Don’t worry, they’ll be back. Whether it’s during holidays, long weekends or over summer vacation, your children will come home, and the joy will be insurmountable. You’ll look forward to your time together, cherish making new memories and have fun reliving the old ones. Don’t fear the change. Embrace it!