MAKING IT WORK : Suggestions for Coping With Empty-Nest Letdown

Even those who think they are ready for an empty nest may find themselves in crisis after the kids leave home, therapists say. It helps to know that it's normal to go through a wide range of emotions, including sadness, guilt and fear, says Mickie Shapiro, a Costa Mesa psychotherapist. She offers the following suggestions on how to cope:

* Give yourself a certain amount of time to get over your difficulties--and be generous. Then set aside 10 minutes each day to focus on your loss. Think about what you miss. Feel sorry for yourself. Getting these feelings out during this time might prevent them from interfering with the rest of your life.

* Focus on creating a different kind of relationship with your child--a bond that will last longer than the one you've lost.

* Trust that your child will take responsibility for his or her own life. Stop rescuing. Hard knocks aren't bad. That's how they learn.

* Make a list of the things you want to do with your life--now is the time to start.

* Exercise and take care of your health and your appearance. Anything you do to build your self-esteem will make this adjustment easier.

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