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Surviving the Empty Nest

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Surviving the Empty Nest

written by Jackie Griffin, M. Ed., LPC

Back-to-school shopping, new shoes and clothes, washing uniforms, and the effort to remain calm through the tumult of their adolescent’s emotions are just a few challenges that parents of teens face. It’s tempting to ask, “When will it all end?” And then it does. In the blink of an eye, the nest is empty and you face the emotional jolt of a vacant bedroom, quiet dinners at home, barren laundry baskets, and a tidy kitchen sink – all reminders that life has changed. We are experiential people and, though we try to prepare ourselves, the impact of an empty nest can shake us. Sometimes feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression set in. As our children move forward, we deal with conflicting emotions. We are happy for their independence and growth, but sad as we face our loss and the change in our relationship. For single parents, this can be doubly painful.

Some ways to thrive as you navigate this unfamiliar path:


1) Recall the things you did well as a parent. Make a list, write them down, and appreciate the
sacrifices and good choices you have made. Dwelling on past mistakes is not helpful for anyone.


2) Let go. Slowly begin to move into the new role of mentor/coach and friend to your young adult. The two extremes of co-dependency or an estranged relationship with your child don’t foster good mental health. Find a balance.

3) Rediscover your identity. Things have changed and so have you. Get involved in something you feel passionate about, that adds to your sense of self-worth. Be open to new relationships, new hobbies. Make yourself available.


4) Remember, feelings are not facts. Allow your faith, positive beliefs, and truth over emotions to anchor you when your feelings are unreliable. Consider finding a trained professional to help you and you will flourish in the years to come.

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