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Tags: departure | lifestyle | marital
OPINION

Adjusting to the Empty Nest Means Navigating the Silence

empty nesters

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Wendy L. Patrick By Friday, 02 February 2024 05:05 PM EST Current | Bio | Archive

The Kids Have Taken Flight, Can Parents Adjust to the Silence of the Empty Nest?  

You've raised your children for decades.

Following years of sharing the joys and challenges of raising them, there comes a time when they're ready to launch.

And yes, the preparation itself is sobering.

Suddenly, before you know it, sons and daughters are exploring potential educational or professional opportunities.

But . . . on the fateful day of departure, whether you drive your teenager to his or her college dorm room, or to the airport, as they prepare to relocate for an exciting new job, your drive home will be bittersweet if not downright depressing.

And the house is sure to be unnaturally quiet upon your arrival

Yet settling into an empty nest is exactly that — acclimating to a new lifestyle, one that can be as comfortable as it is novel — at first.

Silence Is Not Always Golden

One thing many parents notice once children are out of the house and getting on with their lives, is the silence.

For new empty nesters, silence is not golden, it's deafening.

Yet as time goes on, both single parents and spouses living together will discovery a variety of new ways to fill the void — some of which may bring parents closer together.

The Benefits of an Empty Nest: Health and Happiness

Eunjin L. Tracy et al. (2022) studied the impact of having an empty nest on marital closeness and perceived health.

They examined the impact of living with their children having left the home (versus living with children still in the home) on spousal ratings of marital closeness and perceived health.

Studying 3,765 mixed-sex couples they found that living in an empty nest was directly linked with higher levels of marital closeness for both husbands and wives, and wives (only) reporting better health.

In fact, they found that wives’ perceived health precluded a husband’s lower level of marital closeness from negatively affecting the wife’s health.

Yet there are also practical benefits to enjoy, as empty nesters finally have the space to spread their wings.

Here are a few:

Identity Update: Changing Roles 

As some new empty nesters come to appreciate sooner than others, parents are more than just parents. Raising children is only part of a much more complicated and comprehensive identity.

Once children are off at college, parents often begin to understand and embrace their other roles in life, both personally and professionally.

Suddenly, they have the time to volunteer at their favorite charity, join a local Bible study, meet old friends for lunch, or audit a class at the local university.

Personal Privilege

Many parents spend decades feeling guilty about snagging personal time when they have children in the house

Every minute of spare time is used to pack lunches, help with homework, or iron clothing to make sure awkward adolescent years are spent looking crisp and cool on campus.

After young adults take flight, for the first time, that free time is available for personal use.

Parents adjusting to being home alone find this realization to be a luxury.

Now the challenge becomes deciding how to use it — separately and together, well into a couple's senior years.

'Just the Two of Us'

While the name of a popular song recorded (in 1980) by Bill Withers and Grover Washnington, Jr., the phrase can and does refer quite well to one of the challenges empty nesters face . . . each other.

Suddenly, choices like dinner selection and programming preferences take on enhanced significance, especially if they conflict.

Even sleep schedules become an issue that was often unrecognized within the chaos of a running a large family, where dream catching was more of a luxury than a pre-planned part of the day.

When a night owl and an early-bird are living in the same nest, lighthearted communication works wonders in allowing spouses to accommodate and negotiate.

The good news is that most empty nesters gradually settle into their new lives, as children return home for the holidays as well as many other occasions.

A home full of adults now becomes a different type of celebration as couples learn how to soar within the exciting new chapter in life.

This article was originally posted in Psychology Today and is used with the permission of its author.

Wendy L. Patrick, JD, MDiv, Ph.D., is an award-winning career trial attorney and media commentator. She is host of "Live with Dr. Wendy" on KCBQ, and a daily guest on other media outlets, delivering a lively mix of flash, substance, and style. Read Dr. Wendy L. Patrick's Reports — More Here.

© 2024 Newsmax. All rights reserved.


WendyLPatrick
The good news is that most empty nesters gradually settle into their new lives, as children return home for the holidays as well as many other occasions. A home full of adults now becomes a different type of celebration as couples learn how to soar.
departure, lifestyle, marital
769
2024-05-02
Friday, 02 February 2024 05:05 PM
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