Humans are creatures of habit. We prefer stability in our lives. For all our bravado about embracing adventure, we like to have things relatively predictable. That's particularly true of home life, and that's why the thought of an empty nest is potentially troubling for parents. Big changes often bring big upheaval, and subsequently anxiety.
The funny thing is, for years we've been hoping to have a little more time to ourselves -- and to have the house to ourselves. Once the kids leave, we no longer have to worry about dishes mysteriously piling up in the sink, laundry hampers overflowing or food disappearing from refrigerators. Then we suddenly realize just how quiet it is all the time. And that can be unnerving.
But it's also exciting, with a wealth of opportunity that we haven't seen since, well, before we had children. Like most changes in our lives, having a positive outlook is essential to happily adapting to this new life without kids under our roof. The key, according to many researchers, is to plan ahead [sources: Complete Wellbeing; Hall].
The reality is our children will grow up, and unless we want them dependent on us for the long haul, they're going to leave at some point in time. Though it's normal to concentrate on our day-to-day responsibilities, we also want to make sure that we're proactive and planning for the eventuality of our children striking out on their own [source: Hall]. As most empty-nesters will tell you, it comes soon enough.
For starters, get a handle on the changes ahead.