According to a 2013 survey by The Demand Institute, nearly two-thirds of boomers plan to "age in place" rather than move, and of those who do plan to move, nearly half say that plan to increase the size of their home or pay more for a comparably sized home. Do you fall into this category with your newly empty home?
You've spent the last eighteen-plus years raising your children. You think you would have better prepared for the day they embark on the college years and leave the house, right? Wrong! There's no amount of planning that will ever prepare you for the day your home is suddenly quiet and filled with only the memories. Adjusting to a less lively home will take time - there's no magic pill or vacation that will fill the void for empty-nesters. However, there are tips that will ease the adjustment period and help take some of the pain away.
Start off by clearing your mind. With your child(ren) away at college, it's a great time to focus on your needs and to do something that will make you happy. Create a space in your home that's dedicated to you. It can be a space where you do yoga or a place where you work on writing that book you've been meaning to get around to - whatever it may be, make a space that's specifically used for your newfound activity. You'll find that making a space will help you adjust because the reality that you'll have time to do something other than run your teen from practice-to-practice will become real.
Continue to work on yourself by getting into shape. If you're married, get your spouse involved too. Join a gym or turn a room in your house into your private gym. If you're planning on doing an at home gym start out small with dumbbells or kettle balls, an exercise ball, and a mirror to help you work on your form and posture while exercising. Couples working out together benefit from the health advantages of being fit and by the emotional bond you'll strengthen as you get in shape together.
Another coping tip that may not be something you're used to is rest. For the past eighteen-plus years, you've been on-the-go and constantly on the move. Utilize this time to get some rest. When your child leaves it's difficult because you feel like you're alone and the emotional toll can be heavy. Instead of continuing to push yourself towards achieving goals or staying active choose to take a break and give yourself a much needed break.
While you're taking a break, it's important for you to understand that your empty-nest doesn't mean you'll never see your child again. Prioritize time for communication by setting up a Facetime or Skype schedule with your new college student. Keep in mind that you're not the only one who is adjusting to this newfound isolation. Speaking to your child on a regular basis will help ease your mind, show your child that you miss them and will keep a level of normalcy within your day-to-day. It's also important to not go overboard within the realm of changes you chose. During the first few weeks and months as an empty nester avoid big moves and other huge life changing decisions. Give yourself time to adjust to the change and the overall idea of having a college student - it can take a person or couple a year or two before the adjustment of having children away at college feels normal.
Another way to cope will be to communicate with other empty-nesters. If you have friends who are going through the same experience, or have already went through empty-nest syndrome, then discuss coping skills with them. Knowing that you're not alone will help to ease the feeling of being alone and will also build your friendships. If you're married, talk to your spouse. With the kid(s) away many couples feel estranged from their spouse because their normalcy has changed. Learn how to make the adjustment as a couple versus as an individual.
All in all, dealing with empty-nesting is not an easy task. Parents have to deal with the idea of college and living alone, which can be bothersome. Not only do they have to worry about their child being prepared for the real world, but they also are troubled with the insecurities of living without their teen in their day-to-day life. The best advice is to take it day by day and recognize that there is no quick and easy fix. You can take a vacation or remodel a room, but no one will ever be able to completely rid themselves from missing their college bound kids.