When small children are learning to ride a bicycle, they're very often adamant that parents hold on to the back of the bike so that they don't fall off. Parents trail behind, holding the bike steady as their little riders gain confidence. Sooner or later, children will exclaim that mom or dad can let go; they can handle this on their own. When the parents release their grip, some children wobble and fall, while some ride off steadily.
Fast-forward a decade or more, and it's time for the parent to let go once again. Whether children leave to go to college, get married or pursue a military career, there's a time when parents must accept that their children are riding off into their own future, perhaps just as shakily (or as steadily) as when they rode that first bike. The transition of children's departures can in turn make parents feel shaky or steady. This time, parents can't stand back a few yards and supervise; they are left, instead, with an empty nest.
Parents react to an empty nest differently -- for some, it's an exciting time of new freedom; for others, it's a lonely, sad time. Whichever end of the spectrum you're on, this article has a few tips for how to deal with this period of life.