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Accepting the New Normal

September 5, 2017/by Lesley Friedland

Many families have the good fortune to gather for the Thanksgiving holiday. Mine is no exception. It is the one time a year that we gather at my sister’s place to eat, laugh, share stories, watch some football and generally goof around. These days my sister’s three sons, all grown now, travel from their far away homes, reuniting the family for a moment in time.

On the way home from dinner last year, my husband predicted that this was probably the last Thanksgiving that we would be celebrating with just our original families. He was right. Since last Thanksgiving, one of my nephews has gotten engaged, another will be his bringing his girlfriend to Thanksgiving dinner and both of my boys will be traveling home from the out of town colleges they attend.

These are all healthy and happy changes.

My husband’s prescient thoughts proved to be true but it should not be surprising. After all, family change is inevitable. Kids are born; they grow and mature; they move away; they partner; they have kids…you get the idea. Families do not stay the same — sometimes there is a divorce, a birth, a death, a marriage, a re-marriage — a reconfiguration of some kind. It is going to happen. Often, even when positive, change is hard to accept, but necessary for growth.

My family configuration changed somewhat this year too, as my youngest son began his out-of-town college adventure. My heart has been aching with happiness and sadness as my sons navigate the next phase of their lives. They both left for college a couple of weeks ago. As the time approached for the big ‘drop offs,’ I felt ill equipped to handle this family shift — we have been a close foursome for a long time now, and this next step seemed like a seismic change. Even though nothing bad was happening, I was faced with a new reality and I knew that it was important that I approach it in a healthy way.

From my work, I understand that acknowledgement and acceptance are good beginnings to coping with change — these tools are useful in many areas of life. By acknowledging the “new normal,” it is easier to put in place needed support to move forward with managing and accepting the transition. This is a good rule of thumb, no matter the reason for the change.

My sons are happily ensconced in their next chapter of life and my husband and I are enjoying our new-found time together. We are finding ways to keep close with our boys. We look forward to phone calls, texts and college visits, and I must admit that we are also enjoying the lighter laundry load and fewer trips to the grocery store. We are gaining distinctions about our new role as supportive parents to young adult sons.

I am eager to celebrate Thanksgiving; not just to have treasured time together, but to also genuinely welcome new additions to our family and be grateful for how far we have come.

• • •

Lesley Ann Friedland is an attorney, mediator, and Founder and Executive Director of FamilyKind.

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