The only thing that is absolutely certain in life is change. This inevitable part of life can be extremely difficult to adjust to, whether the change is wanted or unwanted.
Recently, my family has experienced a huge change as our second son has left our home, and is making it on his own. It has been a difficult time adjusting to his absence, and also to my changing role as a mother.
Here are a few tips that have helped me adjust to this huge life change:
1. It is okay, and even beneficial, to grieve.
If the change is a time of celebration, we feel guilty for feeling anything but joy. I am proud of my son’s being accepted to his dream college. I’m excited for him; however, it is heartbreaking that I don’t get to see him on a daily basis. My husband and I feel like we have had a death in the family, even though this is certainly not the case.
This can also be the situation when a new baby arrives in the family. You are thrilled that you have a new member of the family. But this huge change means the demise of the life you knew before. Treasuring your new baby may come at the expense of time with your other children or your spouse. Take the time to recognize what you have lost and realize it’s okay to grieve losing what you had before.
2. It is okay to treat change as a marathon and not a sprint.
One of the biggest times of change can be the back-to-school time. Both you and your children are adjusting to an entirely new routine, classroom, teacher, etc. Often, this period of transition can be overwhelming and children might act up more. One mistake that I see many families make is adding on too many changes all at once.
The routine is changing anyway with the start of school, so families decide to change other things in their life. This is difficult because nothing seems familiar anymore, and all the new additions can be confusing. Add one thing at a time, give it a couple of weeks to see how the adjustment is going, and then add on another thing when and if appropriate.
This is similar to embarking on a new diet. People decide they want to get healthy and change their eating and exercise routine radically. It’s really not surprising when people can’t stay with the diet or exercise program. Too many simultaneous changes can be difficult to adapt to. It is a recipe for failure.
Experts recommend making small changes in diet or exercise patterns in most cases. Once you have adjusted to those changes, slowly add on other beneficial changes. This is good advice for any period of change. Slowly making small changes, instead of huge ones all at once, is should make you more successful in meeting your goal.
3. Give yourself grace and more grace during times of change.
My son has lived away from home for about a month now. There were many days when I felt desolate and did not want to do my usual routine. Going through his and his brother’s old school papers, I remembered what fun, quirky little boys they were. These big changes hit me really hard. Needless to say, I was not very productive that day.
At times, I was mad at myself for not being able to just snap out of it, and get on with life. However, I’ve realized that that was my way of adjusting to the change. Instead of beating myself up for not feeling like my usual happy, outgoing self, I realized I just needed time to adjust. I knew eventually there would be a time where it didn’t all hurt so much, and I could return to my normal routine.
I also tried to extend that grace to the other members of my family as they were dealing with this big change, too. My husband handled his complex feelings in a different way than me. I didn’t judge him and gave him the space he needed. We also made an effort to create new memories with our two children still living at home. This move was tough on my daughter because she is close to her brother. I’ve given her lots of hugs and to listened to her feelings when she wants to talk.
Change can be turbulent. But with time, patience and grace, adapting to your new normal will be easier.