Okay, the kids are gone: Now what? And no, sobbing, repeatedly cleaning the house or watching home movies from when they were kids 24/7 is not the correct answer. "Yes, you will have to deal with a host of difficult issues and emotions,” says psychotherapist and life coach Antoinette Giacobbe. “This is just natural given that much of your life to this point has been devoted to your children on a daily basis."
Your emotional rollercoaster ride could include:
- Sadness, even grief
- Identity crisis
But all of that won't last. You will get through it and you will find the bright side to all of this.
To help you through this transition in your life, Antoinette suggests that you keep the following in mind:
- You haven't lost your kids or your identity. This isn't a loss situation; it's an evolution to a new phase of your life and your children's lives.
- Accept that it can be especially hard on you if you're the primary caregiver (and that's usually moms).
- You are not finished parenting yet! Your kids still need you; they will always need you — just in a different way.
Antoinette suggests you try the following to help you adjust to this new phase in your life:
- Keep a positive outlook. Believe that the glass — and your home — is half full. Keeping positive can make a big difference.
- Accept reality. Acknowledge and accept everything that you're experiencing.
- Express yourself. Give yourself permission to fully feel all that you're going through and to express those feelings. Friends, family and even support groups can give an outlet for expressing how you feel.
- Keep in touch with your child. Your grown-up-little-one may also be going through a difficult transition period so be supportive, but don't suffocate them. Avoid the temptation to call every five minutes because the more you call, the less they may want to see you (especially if you're trying to use guilt as a leverage). And while they may not be home for Sunday dinner every week, you can still create new family traditions. Why not schedule a weekly phone or web chat or a face-to-face meeting at a mid-way point?
Above all, don't forget to congratulate yourself on the amazing job that you did getting your kids ready to leave the nest.
The bright side
As you're dealing with this transition, know that once you're back on solid ground, you can better appreciate the bright side of this new phase of life that is waiting for you. You have extra time and extra space — fewer chores for you and a chance to make your home really conform to your dreams.
- More privacy and more together time for you and your partner. And more time for other family members and for friends, and for all those things you've put off doing for years.
- More "me" time to re-connect with yourself and what you really like to do. Take advantage of all those things you may have put off because your children came first. Get a hobby, a new career, get some serious downtime, volunteer, start a workout routine, try a new activity, or getting that pet you knew you'd never have time to fully appreciate while raising your kids.
- Get really good sleep — and revel in it!
Or, you can just do absolutely nothing when you feel like it. And don't feel guilty about it. You've earned it!