She stood on the corner adjacent to Bryan Hall. She cried, I cried. Five years ago, I left my daughter, Kelly, at Florida State University to begin her freshman year. My car pulled away and all I could see looming in the rear view mirror was Doak Campbell Stadium. I continued to cry on the way home, the entire way home. All seven hours. She was starting a new chapter, and I was beginning my empty nest phase.
A lot of people with good intentions gave me some pretty wild advice on how to handle this phase. I did not join ten dating sites, move six states away, or get a tattoo- all entertaining ideas, but not suitable for me at the time. Listen to your heart and your head when it comes to the empty nest.
No one can completely prepare you for an empty nest, but there are ways to ease the pain. Time will march on, a different march, but it will march on. As I struggled to relearn how to live, adjust, and enjoy my new life, five things were apparent.
Begin to disconnect slowly. This does not mean you emotionally detach from your child, but do make the time to do more of the things you like. Go out more often with your friends, read more, and spread your wings a bit. Too often, parents tend to hold tighter to their child at this time. This benefits no one, as your child will also be slowly letting go.
2-Refriend your Friends
Friendships are not always properly nourished during the child raising years. However, a true friend, especially one also raising children, will have stuck around during the lean friendship times. Try to do more with those friends, rediscover, provided they have the time, each other. The same rule can be applied to spouses. Rediscover each other.
3-Get a Hobby or Two
I laughingly told my daughter I would take up taxidermy (no offense to the taxidermy crowd). Instead I began to paint glassware and to write a bit more. At first, I concentrated on filling those empty hours, but then I really began to enjoy my hobbies.
4-Clean Out the House
I don’t recommend turning the absent child’s room into a craft room; remember he or she will be home on occasion. I do recommend removing the child’s sports’ gear from the foyer and using an under-the-bed or closet container system to catalog and store all the school projects and pictures. Wait a few months to do this, you will cry because each item has a story.
5-Avoid Big Changes
Stay away from the big stuff–new houses, new jobs, and new relationships–for a while. It may seem like a good idea to begin anew, but you are emotionally fragile at the moment. Shelf those plans and revisit them after a few months. I did have one big change. I went blonde, really blonde, for about a year. It was fun, but the upkeep and expense was too much.
According to www.nces.ed.gov, 3.3 million children will graduate from high school in 2014. And 68.2% of those students will go to college. Many of those 68.2% will leave home to go to school. Begin preparations now to handle the changes in your life, as well as the changes in your child’s life.