It’s the time of year again when college campuses are jam-packed with new students, freshly ironed clothes and Ikea futons. Move-in time is an exciting part of the college experience, and while new freshman come prepared with the mini-fridge and storage crates, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed in such a wave of change.
When families push their teens out of the nest to start college and enter into the real world, we sometimes forget that the fall often impacts more than just the new freshman in college. When young adults make the move to fly from home, parents are faced with an empty nest and – sometimes – a painful transition.
Some parents gracefully embrace the next phase of life, but a growing number of baby boomers continue to experience marital issues, a disheartening loss and a failure to cope with anxiety and a sense of purpose. To make the best of your empty nest, consider the following:
- Join a group of people experiencing like-minded struggles: Do you have friends who are going through (or have gone through) the empty nest blues? Make an effort to reach out to them sooner rather than later. The feeling of loneliness that can often sprout up after children go to college can cause mothers and fathers to feel reclusive and unmotivated. Don’t let those feelings take root in your life; seek help from friends. If you do not have friends who can help, join a formal or informal group of people you may not be familiar with. Commit to meeting once a week or once every few weeks to get coffee, dinner or to walk together.
- Seek out a life coach: People often assume that life coaches are only relevant to young people pursuing the start of their careers. However, a life coach is incredibly beneficial for people of all ages, especially during new phases and transitions. A life coach will push you out of your comfort zone, something that is often necessary for empty nesters. Even for those who are retired or looking for work after years of staying at home with children, a life coach can help point empty nesters in the right direction. A coach provides accountability, motivation and compassionate support. With a coach or professional counseling services, men and women can explore their purpose and worth, while outlining new goals and adventures.
- Opt for marital counseling: It is not uncommon to have marital problems surface after the last son or daughter moves in to college. Married couples have to redefine what their marriage looks like without kids in the house. This is a challenging and sometimes frightening time, and marital counseling opens the doors to exploring this new phase of life together. Many older couples attest to having a renewed sense of romance and love after a fresh start with marriage counseling. Sometimes, they have to learn – all over again – how to relate, love and cherish the other. This takes time, and marital counseling fosters patience and a positive environment. Be curious about your spouse again.
- Learn a new skill: Empty nesters generally have much more free time to embrace new adventures and skills. Learn a new skill, whether it is sewing, Web design, painting, furniture making or any other hobby. Invite others to learn with you, including your partner.
- Create new rituals: Consider starting a book club or a cooking group with friends. It’s important to cultivate an environment of learning, excitement and community. Inviting others to your home for frequent celebrations or taking day or weekend trips together with friends and family can make this new chapter of life much more thrilling. Do not just create new rituals with the people in your community, but establish rituals of connection with your partner. Creating new interests and putting it on your calendar to do together is the first step in avoiding a painful, lonely transition.
- Prepare your kids before they move in: If you are experiencing early signs of the empty nest syndrome, make sure you start a conversation with soon-to-be college students early on. Helping a son or daughter establish his or her independence before the big move-in date will keep anxiety and worrying at bay.
Safe Harbor Christian Counseling aims to walk alongside empty nesters and all individuals struggling with direction and purpose, no matter their phase in life. Safe Harbor provides child and adolescent counseling services, adult counseling services and couple’s counseling. Individuals can find hope and embrace the empty nest through couple’s intensives that are customizable for each pair. Safe Harbor is enthusiastic about rekindling communication and helping people see their true purpose and worth, leading to a more abundant life.
For more information on Safe Harbor’s counseling, coaching and therapy services, visit http://www.safeharbor1.com. Interested individuals are welcome to join in on the faith-based dialogue found on our Facebook page and following Safe Harbor Christian Counseling on Twitter.