Reluctant Empty Nester? Here's the Key to Feeling Happy Again!
As the summer winds down, many people are facing the change from the hustle and bustle of a household filled with kids, clutter and laughter to a quiet household where nothing gets messy, but there’s also the acute absence of laughter and energy in the house.
When our kids are home, it’s chaos. There are appointments to make, Cheetos under the couch cushions, and dirty sneakers sitting on the dining room table. On the flip side, there are movie nights, going out for ice cream, and snuggling under the covers. In effect, parenting is the best of times and the worst of times. Total chaos and disorganization combined with utterly sublime moments of tenderness and love.
When your kids leave, it’s normal to go through waves of excitement that the house will finally be organized followed by gut wrenching pangs of sadness that the house is empty. In our efforts to be ‘good parents,’ we know that we need to let our kids grow up, but in reality, we might prefer that they were napping in their cribs.
When you are facing an empty nest, here’s my advice for how to handle the rollercoaster of emotion that may ensue.
These activities will make the pangs of loss WORSE:
- Staying home, armed with a plan to clean out your linen closet, organize your basement, or repaint a bedroom.
- Spending excessive time in your kids’ (empty) rooms.
These activities will help you to feel happier:
- Get out of the house!
- Start a routine of walking: I love the Haverford College trail and the Radnor trail. My all-time favorite, however, is the Kelly Drive loop. It is gorgeous and the people-watching is epic. It is well worth the drive.
- Go to the gym and take a new exercise class.
- Plan some day trips: there are fascinating things to see in Philly, in New York, and visiting the NJ shore in the Fall is truly beautiful.
In order to get through the first month of the empty nest, you MUST be proactive. If you don’t make plans now, it is quite possible that you will fall into an abyss of missing your kids. This is not good for you and it’s not good for your kids.
Lauren Napolitano, Psy.D.