The months leading up to a less full nest can create emotional shifts in the life of a family like none previously experienced.
Here are five resolutions to guide soon-to-be empty nesters through a transformative year ahead:
1. Reflect on your contributions with pride.
While focusing on what’s next for your child, take time to reflect on the countless contributions you’ve made to help them reach this important stage of development. Recognize that the foundation you laid and the effort you put in have helped your child grow into an independent being who is now setting sights on goals and dreams of their own.
Don’t let the sense of pride you may be feeling get lost amid feelings of uncertainty about their (or your) future. And remember that the exceptional caregiving skills you developed through the years as a parent can now be more fully applied to your own self-care. Thus, it’s reassuring to know that in the unchartered waters of the days and months ahead, you’ll be in very good hands! Your competency and care have gotten you this far and will get you through the next phase of your journey as well.
2. Accept where you are with your relationships.
Periods of transition sometimes shine a light on the quality of current relationships. Whether your relationship with your college-bound child, other children, or partner has been ideal or less than ideal leading up to this moment in time, accept where you are and know that there’s always an opportunity to improve or deepen those bonds as you move forward. Even a temporary departure of one family member will naturally cause a shift in family relations. Embrace the change in family dynamics with an open heart and use this as an opportunity to increase communication and to consider ways to enhance or improve relations.
3. Rediscover and redefine interests and dreams.
Understandably, your children may have been the central focus of your life for decades. Now, as the nest empties, there’s a bit more time to turn inward to identify aspects of yourself that may have been overshadowed by the demands of parenting. Begin to reflect on one or more interests that you previously wanted to pursue. And don’t forget about one or more big dreams you may have simply deferred. Perhaps there’s a course of study you’ve always wanted to consider, a skill you’ve wanted to develop, a hobby you’ve wanted to pursue, or an aspect of your health you’ve wanted to improve. Now is the time to revisit and rekindle those interests and dreams and to create new ones as well.
4. Pursue new or strengthen old relationships.
With more free time on your hands in the not-so-distant future, the time can be right to begin to rekindle old friendships and/or develop new ones outside of your immediate family. Reach out to one or more friends with whom you may have lost touch through the years to see how they are and to determine if there’s interest in reconnecting. They may be as interested as you in picking up where you last left off. Stay open to developing brand-new relationships too. Whether re-engaging in activities you once loved or pursuing a change in direction from a career perspective, you’re bound to meet new people who you’ll enjoy getting to know.
5. Savor these days and make more memories.
Savor your dwindling days of a full house and make the most of your time together. With the bustle of senior year activities, be sure to get some dedicated family time on everyone’s calendars. Survey your child and other family members about what interests them most. Whether it’s a weekly dinner, a special trip, or a game night once a month, you’ll enjoy continuing to make memories together.
Remember, while family life will not be the same once one or more children leave the nest, this period of adjustment can open up many avenues for personal growth and unexpected joy for all involved.