Most parents would describe September as busy. School and extra-curricular activities begin again. Clothes, shoes and supplies must be purchased for the new season. Often September leaves us feeling like we’ve stepped on a moving treadmill.
But for many parents, this time of year is just the opposite; their treadmill just stopped mid stride. I am talking about Empty Nesters. Whether your teenagers just left for university or your adult children married this summer, being alone, after years of loving and involved parenting, can throw you for a loop. This sense of loneliness and confusion often hits parents (most often women) in the autumn and is so common it is has become referred to as "empty nest syndrome”.
Sometimes this sense of sadness and disorientation can go past the normal adjustment phase and leave people very depressed. If you are a single-parent who has devoted all your time and energy to your children, it is very difficult to know how to begin your life again. But, it is not always easy for couples either, whose activities and lives were glued together by their children.
Here are a few ideas to help you cope with this new stage of your life.
- Give yourself permission to grieve. For twenty or more years you have devoted your life to raising, nurturing and loving your children. Their company and conversation is going to be missed. It is normal for you to feel loss. The sadness will pass.
- Embrace the change. You may feel like life as you’ve known it is over, but in reality this is a new beginning. Just because you haven’t done things in the past, doesn’t mean you can’t do them now. Go back to or take on new responsibilities at work, take a course, volunteer or travel. Up to this point you may have found most of your meaning in your children, but now is your chance to find new hobbies and ways of impacting your world.
- Keep in touch. Thanks to technology, it is easier than ever to stay connected with people. Facebook, texting, emailing or skype are great ways to keep close with your adult children. If you are not familiar with these technologies, get someone to teach you. It will be worth the learning curve.
- Begin again. Often couples feel like they are married to a stranger after their children leave. Now is the time to be intentional in spending time, communicating, dating and loving your spouse. This can be a wonderful time for couples once the adjustments are made.
- Get help. If you find your sad feelings, depression or relationship problems are not going away, you may need to get some help. Women often find themselves facing an empty nest at the same time they experience menopause. See your doctor if you suspect your symptoms may have physical reasons. A therapist may also be able to walk you through some issues from your past that still affect how you cope today.
Wishing you all the best in this new time of your lives.
By: Sharon Osvald is collaboration with Winnie Visser
Principles for Real Living:
I am responsible for my own attitude
My attitude affects my actions
I can not change others, but I can influence others
My emotions do not control my actions
Admitting my imperfections does not mean that I'm a failure
Love is the most powerful weapon for good in the world
Desperate Marriages by Gary Chapman, Northfield Publishing, Chicago 1998, 2008