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One of the biggest challenges of family life can be when it is time for your young ones to leave the nest. The teenage and maybe early college years have stormed through and brought achievements and growth to your kids, and now... they're grown up and doing their own thing. The house feels different now - the rhythm of your life has changed. Empty nest syndrome has come. How can we cope with this major life change?
How to Manage Your Empty Nest Syndrome
1. Reconnect with your Spouse
Raising kids takes a team. As a parent, almost all of your energy is directed into child-rearing - including events like dances, clubs, sports, activities, social visits, school events, and the whole assorted milieu that comes with children. Now that all of that is done, you have more free time. This is a great time to reconnect with your spouse. Take that weekend trip you never could before. Plan a big vacation getaway together. Work on home improvement projects together, cook grown-up meals, go to dinner at that one place the kids hate. Investing the extra time and energy into your partner is always a winning proposition.
2. Reconnect with Friends
Chances are, you have friends who have kids your age. This is an excellent opportunity to connect with them and revive old friendships. Being able to hang out without the restrictions that kids bring can let you enjoy adult friendships in whole new ways. Plan that long-discussed hunting trip or girl's weekend in the city.
3. Focus on the Positive
The transition to adulthood can be very stressful for us as parents. It can be easy to worry about the kids: What are they doing? Are they managing okay? Do they need my help? These are normal feelings. The thing to do is to acknowledge and accept them. Then focus on the positive. The fact that they have moved out means you have successfully raised an adult human being from a baby! This is no easy task, and you now have time and energy to focus on enriching yourself. Remember that the kids becoming adults doesn't mean they're leaving forever: they're always your kids no matter what.
4. Keep in Touch...
While moving out is a big leap of independence, it doesn't mean your kids don't ever want to talk to you again. Make use of modern communication tools like FaceTime, WhatsApp, Zoom, Snapchat, even Twitter - if nothing else, they'll think you're funny. Set up regular social events with your kids - barbecues, birthdays, and Sunday dinners are great reasons to get together.
5. ...But Respect Boundaries
While keeping in touch is very important, it is also very important to respect boundaries. Your kids are adults now, and they are learning to run their lives. They need privacy and space to breathe and grow into themselves. Make sure you're not bombarding them with excessive calls and texts. If they take a weekend trip, check in with them when they get home. Don't drop by unannounced or uninvited. Healthy boundaries will help you and your adult children have thriving and functional relationships.
Ever since your children came into the world, you've been needed. Childhood and the teenage years saw gradual increases in the amount of independence they had, but the sudden leap into adulthood can leave you feeling unfulfilled or unneeded. One of the best ways to regain a sense of purpose is to redirect your energy into volunteerism. Giving back to your community and making a difference for people can be a very rewarding experience.
So how does one volunteer? Religious and spiritual people might enjoy volunteering for their houses of worship: this could be anything from mowing the lawn at the church to spending time working at a shelter. Animal lovers can always find volunteer work at animal shelters or wildlife rehabilitation organizations. Outdoorsy folks can sometimes find volunteer work making or maintaining trails. Hospitals, nursing homes, and food banks always need help. There are a lot of ways to volunteer in almost any community - click here to learn more!
7. Chase That Hobby
When we have kids, a lot of our own interests get put on the back burner. Kids consume a lot of time, energy, and money. Not that we're complaining - it's just an observation. But the fact is that your kids' transition into independent adulthood means you probably have a lot more free time and perhaps some extra dough. Why not chase that hobby you never had time for before? You could learn to scuba dive, play an instrument, fly an airplane, pick up a new language, or sail. You could become a marathon runner, restore cars, take up painting or drawing, or even get a pet... the list goes on! Finding new hobbies is a great way to cope with empty nest syndrome. As an added bonus, you get to do something personally fulfilling. Win-win!
Not sure where to start? Try our blog post, 22 New Hobby Ideas for Your Retirement!
8. Remodel the House
When your child or children leave the nest, there's suddenly a lot more space available. Why not remodel and refresh your home? You could convert an old bedroom into a bespoke craft room, complete with fold-down armoire crafting stations. It could become a library or a den; it could even become a yoga studio or an exercise room. Now that your kids have become fully-fledged adults, it's time to think about how to make your nest work for you.
9. Get Support
It's normal to feel emotional during this time of your life. Still, it's important not to let natural feelings of grief, loss, anxiety, or separation spiral into more sinister thought patterns. If you are having a hard time coping, find a support group. This could be a literal support group facilitated by a therapist where people learn to cope with difficult emotions. Therapy is a valid and acceptable choice if you're struggling with your child's departure from the home. It could also be coffee with friends experiencing a similar transition, a church group, or a club.
10. An Empty Nest is a Sign of Success
Remember: an empty nest is a sign of success. Your kids have grown and left to pursue their own lives, the biggest adventure we can imagine. You've done an amazing thing, and while you might miss the background energy of an adult child at home, you'll soon find that the empty nest can be a blessing of its own.
Let us know in the comments below - How was your adjustment to an empty nest?