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Empty Nests Filled With Opportunities

How to deal with grief, free time and your new life without your child

Keep growing. Turn your energies to your own evolution and take advantage of the extra time on your hands.  Get involved in a favorite cause or volunteer at a community organization. Get healthier and get your finances in order. Start a new hobby or join a club. Now's the time!

Re-energize your romantic relationship. Re-establish yourselves as a twosome. Make a list of activities you and your spouse or partner like doing together and schedule time for them. Talk about your plans for the future. Get counseling if your relationship is faltering.

Watch your time. Infuse some balance in your routine and establish healthy boundaries on the amount of alone time. For example, meals can easily erode into a time of frozen TV dinners, so have a meal with your partner or friends several times a week. If you find yourself lonely and bored, find activities that involve others.

Talk with your child about using his or her room. Before you create that home office in your child's former bedroom, talk it over. He or she may be fine with it, but some children come home over the summers during college and still need space. A compromise might be a split-purpose room that includes space for your child.

Forge a new relationship with your child.  Most parents say their relationship with their adult child improves when the child moves out. You may spend less quantity but more quality time together actually communicating. Remember, your job now is to give your child autonomy, respect and encouragement, not to tell him or her what to do.

Celebrate! Writer Ellen Goodman said, Is there any other job that defines success as becoming unnecessary? Congratulate yourself for a job well done. You've been at this parenting job for a long time and your child is venturing out of the nest. This is a significant success. Relish it.

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