This is a highly emotional stage, met with mixed emotions and potential straining on the parental relationship. Often, I find that this period is perceived as sad, a loss of familial closeness and sometimes a realization that you have lost how to be a partner and not merely a co-parent. Let's try a re-frame of the situation for a more positive and future-oriented thinking pattern.
Saying goodbye to a cycle in your life, especially one as big as a household filled with bustling kids, is sad. We need to accept the ending of this stage, and the uncomfortable emotion that comes along with it. While coping with this loss, ruminate on the positive aspects.
Life has given you and your partner time to reconnect and re-discover each other. Walk around the house naked, try out that adventurous curry chicken recipe for date night, be spontaneous together! Conversations will slowly cease being monopolized by the adventures of your kids, but rather your own adventures you take with your partner. You have entered into a new phase in your life. In this, you can watch your kids grow into independent adults as your relationship begins to flourish with the attention you now have time to give it.
Stephanie P. Bathurst, MA, LCMFT
Marriage and Family Therapist