An Empty Nest Doesn’t Mean an Empty Life

woman paintingContributed by Ann Bobonick, RN, CNE, CWC, Women’s Center Wellness Coach

This month, young adults across the country will be leaving home for the first time as they head off to college. And parents in towns big and small will be taking a look at their newly empty “nests,” and asking themselves, “Now what?” Such feelings of sadness and loss when the last (or only) child leaves home are often referred to as empty nest syndrome. It can be especially tough on moms, who often have dedicated their lives to raising children for the past 18+ years.

This time in your life may feel like an ending, but it’s also a beginning. It’s a wonderful opportunity to re-envision your life. I love to work with women who are transitioning to a new life stage—it can be an exciting time where old goals resurface or new interests get a chance to bloom.

Look closely at what brings you positive energy and focus your efforts there. For some, this may mean pursuing a long-postponed education, career or volunteer work. For others, it’s trying a new hobby or fitness routine, or focusing more on your spiritual life. Perhaps it’s time to enhance your friendships or your relationship with your spouse. Make a list of things you’ve dreamed about doing. And start checking them off. (Yes, there’s an app for that.) Or, try a vision board and cut out pictures of things you love and see where it leads you.

Most of all, celebrate your hard work of bringing your child this far! And embrace your evolving relationship with your adult child. Many parent-child relationships actually improve without the daily stressors of living together. As your child continues to mature, you can look forward to an even deeper, more meaningful relationship with him or her.

If at any point your symptoms become severe (e.g., excessive crying, depression or anxiety that interferes with your daily life), don’t just sit in your empty nest. Talk with your doctor or a mental health professional about how to best cope with the changes you’re facing and embrace your newfound independence.

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