Monday, August 13, 2012

How to Deal With An Empty Nest

Dr Ellen Diana, Ph.D., Psychologist & Author of the Charge Up Your Life Series
 When your last child leaves the nest it’s a time for celebration, although it may not feel that way. Whether your child leaves for college, a job out of town, a home of their own, or marriage, each of these transitions is significant for you as well. Each one means that you have helped your child to acquire the skills to be independent. You are to be congratulated!

It’s emotionally wrenching, however, not to see the child you loved and cared for on a daily basis. It leaves a hole in your life that can be challenging to fill. Change can be energizing or stressful depending on how you deal with it. In the case of an empty nest, this change involves the loss of a role you played every day, being a hands-on mother. It’s tempting just to fill in the time and find new things to do; however, a major life change such as this requires more.  It’s necessary to, first, recognize that you are involved in a major life change, and then view this life change from three perspectives: the past, the present, and the future.

Review the past
•    Consider the changes that have come about in your life by being a parent.
•    How has this child changed you personally since coming into your life?
•    What did you give up to become a parent? How have you benefitted?
•    What will you miss about having this child in your daily life?
•    Allow yourself to mourn the loss of daily contact with this child. Remember.

Focus on the present
•    What are your fears? That you are no longer needed? That you have lost a major role in your life? Identify the stressors around this event and consider whether each one is accurate.
•    Take a status check on your life goals. What have you accomplished? What goals are left to pursue? Do you still want these goals? Have others taken their place?
•    Make a list of the projects you’ve put off but now have time for. This list could include small things like cleaning out your closets as well as taking a computer class, retraining for a change in career, or getting a makeover.
•    How can you celebrate this change in a very personal way? Decide on something very meaningful for you.
•    Communicate with your network of family, friends and colleagues. Seek emotional support.

Anticipate the future
•    Think positive by considering the Big Picture of this change. You’re moving into a new stage of your life where you have more time to focus on you. What will you do?
•    Recognize this change as an opportunity to nurture yourself Physically, Mentally, Emotionally, and Spiritually. Explore your options.
•    Plan how to enrich your other relationships. Plan regular get-togethers with friends. Find a new activity to enjoy with your spouse or rekindle interest in one you used to enjoy together.
•    Find ways to stay in touch with this child such as regular phone calls or emails if they are out of town or time together if they will be living nearby.

Working through these three steps can help you to gain clarity on how this change is affecting you. Reviewing the past in order to learn from it, as well as to celebrate it, can be enlightening since we often live our lives unconsciously, unaware of how small but significant changes are taking place every day of our lives. Focusing on the present helps you to become aware of your stock of resources and coping skills, as well as interests and goals. Planning for the future puts your life on a hopeful, positive course, which reduces fears and sadness. Recognize that this transition is a time to acquire new meaning in your life. Enjoy and celebrate the opportunities for growth and positive change.

About the Author:
Ellen Diana is a licensed psychologist, co-author of the Charge up Your Life Book Series and certified school psychologist with 30 years’ experience working with children, adults, couples, and families in schools and in private practice in Phoenix, Arizona. She has published a number of articles in scholarly journals on psychology and education, and co-authored five self-help books in the Charge Up Your Life series. Helping women to evolve into their best selves through personal growth and self-awareness is a passion of hers. Ellen raised three successful children as a single parent and so has special interests in mentoring other women in transition and helping parents to raise resilient children. Contact Ellen at or through her website

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