5 Emotionally Intelligent Tips for Filling the Space Left Vacant by an Empty Nest

Life transitions are by choice and by circumstance, happy and sad, planned and sudden. Despite their method of arrival, like change, life transitions are constant.

Transitions usher us from one chapter of our lives tEMPTY NESTo the next. The recent high school graduation season closed the door on an estimated 3 million high school careers and emptied the nest for many of the cheering parents who sat in the audience.

The commonly felt emotions of grief, loneliness and depression that mark the time when children grow up and leave home is called “empty nest syndrome”. This can range from adjusting to the resonating silence in a once raucous house to moving through a deep sense of loss. Tapping into your emotional intelligence will help you navigate this transition.

Increased emotional intelligence is not stifling what you feel, it is being aware of your emotions and more intentional about your behavior in response to them. There are five core categories of emotions (happy, sad, angry, afraid, and ashamed) each with varying degrees of intensity. Research confirms that we have emotional reactions to everything that happens in our lives, whether we’re aware of our reactions or not. Experiencing the transition of an empty nest pulls from all five categories. For example, feeling loneliness from not being part of the “active day-to-day” parenthood team, excitement and anxiety about your future, peace for completing an 18 year plus task, and sadness over the known and yet-to-be discovered parental mistakes we all have surely made.

Popular author Deepak Chopra, who defines happiness as a state of fulfillment, writes about two truths: (1) we seek to be happy and (2) when we feel empty, we will fill the void. It is in our nature to plug the holes created by separation and loss in order to feel full.

Empty nest is a loss of a way of life. It rattles what for many are a closely held identity connected to our roles as Mother and Father. True to our nature we will fill the emptiness with something. So, embrace this time to intentionally reimagine and reinvent you. Become full on something fulfilling.

With the dorm bathroom caddy and twin XL sheets off your to-do list, spend mindful time preparing for your own transformation. Here are 5 emotionally intelligent tips to get you started:
1. Self-awareness: Get reacquainted with yourself. Do an assessment to determine what you like, what you do well, and how you prefer to spend your time. It will make you more intentional when deciding how to fill your new free time and how to use the increased energy you’ll have.
2. Self-management: Hold space with what you are feeling. Honor it. Allow yourself time to process and grieve if necessary. Be patient with yourself as you adjust to this new and different chapter.
3. Empathy: As you move through the emotions of adjusting to an empty nest, know that the adjustment your child is going through is equally, if not more, significant. Resist the urge to share with them how much you miss them. Show some empathy and make sure your tone and mood don’t dampen the thrill and excitement of their new experiences.
4. Interpersonal relationships: Reconnect with your spouse or partner and friends. Practice making friends again, on your own terms, not at PTO or on the soccer field as “Jane’s Mother.”
5. Resilience: If you have arrived at the empty nest chapter in your life, guesses are you’ve moved through several life transitions. Know that you’ll move through this one too. Having a listening ear, a friend or coach you can brainstorm with, can be comforting. Ask for help. You don’t have to go it alone.

Take solace in the fact that children may leave your home, but never your heart!

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