Something happens to me each day at about three in the afternoon. I suddenly panic, thinking I forgot to pick the kids up from school. ThenI realize “the kids” are down to one and that beautiful boy got his license and car this summer. He’s not waiting for me in the school carline. He’s pulling out of the parking lot with a cute blonde in the passenger seat and probably a couple buddies in the back (sigh). This isn’t the first transition my mind—and heart—have had to make over the past twenty-plus years. First there was sending each child off to school, then to high school, then all too soon to college. And of course, this has all been practice for the day my husband and I will find ourselves with an officially empty nest.
Discuss the change before it happens
Whether your child is headed to kindergarten, college, or the big bad world, it’s a transition for them as well. Begin talking together about the changes that are coming as early as possible. When will you see each other? How will you stay connected? Let them know you know they’ve got this.
Give yourself time to adjust
These are major life changes. Experts say that it can take 18 months to two years for you to adjust to the new norm.
Spend time with other parents who’re going through the same adjustment period. Plan some visits to commiserate and compare notes.
Celebrate your child’s independence
From the time you brought them home from the hospital, your job has been to work yourself out of a job. If your child’s ready to take this next step, it’s because you got them ready. Congratulate yourself on a job well done.
Find identity elsewhere
If you’re a person who finds identity in being a parent, look elsewhere for validation. Take up a new hobby. Tackle a new challenge. Cultivate a new circle of friends or reconnect with old ones.
Remember, no matter what major step your child is taking and how far away they’re going, you’re still their parent. And no one can take that away from you.