As parents, it is not easy watching your child move out to pursue their career or studies. While on one hand we would like them to be independent and responsible, we also worry about their safety and well-being. However, it is important to move on with life after children leave the nest. How well we make this transition depends on how effectively we deal with our loss and pick ourselves up to move forward.
Acknowledge your emotions
The profound sense of loss can be overwhelming especially since you might suddenly find yourself with nothing to do. No ferrying the children to classes, tuitions or music lessons, no cooking or cleaning after them and no nagging! Allow yourself to feel all the associated emotions and acknowledge them. Grieving is normal, so do go ahead and cry if you want to. Remember that feeling is healing. You may also have to make peace with the vacuum in their absence and the fact that things might never be the same again. But you will have to let go after the grieving process.
Reconnect with your spouse
With time weighing on your hands, you can either sink into loneliness or start connecting with your partner again without any distractions. Have leisurely dinners with your spouse, go for those long drives or catch a play or music performance without the pressure of rushing back home to get things ready for school the next morning! Help your partner process their feelings as well.
Nurture other relationships
If you never found the time so far to reach out to your best friend or to your siblings and extended family, this is the time to make up for it. There's nothing like the company of friends and close relatives to lift up your spirits. So rekindle your relationships with all the significant people in your life and surround yourself with stimulating company.
Find time for yourself
You might have put aside your own hobbies and pursuits for the sake of your children. This is the time to explore your passions be it music, art, writing or cooking. It would also be a good idea to take up any form of exercise like yoga, tai-chi or any other physical activity. There is nothing like a physical fitness program to pump endorphins and make you feel happy and healthy. If you have always wanted to volunteer for a cause, then go ahead and find something meaningful to do. Don't feel guilty about pampering yourself. After all you have successfully launched your child into the real world.
Maintain a regular daily schedule
With the children gone and a lot of free time on your hands, you might be tempted to sleep in late or have left overs for lunch and generally not want to extend yourself too much. While this is all right for a while till you recover, in the long run try to be disciplined in organizing your day. A regular schedule will give you a sense of control and fill you with purpose. If both of you are working then try not to spend more time at office to get over your loss. Get back home and go for a walk with your partner and talk about your feelings or your day at work.
Keep in touch with your children
Use technology to keep in regular touch with your children. Set up a Skype session once a week with your child so that you can reassure yourself that your baby is fine! However try not to keep calling or messaging them and give them space to find their own bearings. Keep alternate numbers of the warden and your child's roommates in case you are unable to get through on his phone for some reason.
Accepting that your children may not need you in the same way is a loss that is difficult to bear but keep in mind that you can build a mature relationship with your child now and the way you relate to them will change as they evolve into young adults. Remember that you will always be a parent, though the level of participation in their lives will be different. Here is an opportunity for you to take stock of your life and find your own path.