When parenting has been your main priority for the past two decades or so, it can be very difficult to adjust to life without your children living with you. The overwhelming emotions and feelings you may feel in this transition period are known as “empty nest syndrome”. Although it isn’t an official medical diagnosis, the problem is as real as it can be.
As normal as sadness, anxiety and melancholy might be for the freshly minted empty-nesters, there are ways to get over these negative feelings and develop a new sense of normal. If you want to learn how to adjust to your new (or future) role and enjoy your newfound independence while allowing your children to develop their own, check out these 7 life tips to cope with the empty nest syndrome.
Try to occupy your newfound time
If you’ve had a close relationship with your children and focused on their lives 24/7, it can be difficult to re-learn to live without your children and focus on your life all over again. But it’s like riding a bike, right? No matter how long it’s been since you’ve done it, you can gradually get back in touch with your old self and immerse yourself in the activities that you once used to love. Or, find new ones to occupy your time with.
The important thing is to stay busy. Explore new interests such as gardening, photography or reconnect with friends and organize weekly gatherings (small ones, with the pandemic and all). Sign up for clubs or classes in your area, volunteer, exercise, anything to keep you entertained and too focused on your children’s activities even when you’re no longer living together.
Set a schedule to communicate with your children
It might be difficult to cope with the absence of your children in your home, but this doesn’t mean you should obsessively contact them, stalk them on their social media accounts and leave them text messages all the time. Apart from becoming too possessive and clingy, and hinder your chances to move on with your life, you’re also preventing your children from becoming independent adults.
To make sure you give them privacy but also maintain a close relationship, set a schedule to communicate with your children; let’s say a phone call every three days or Facetime at the end of the week. It might sound depriving at first, but a schedule will ensure you check in on your children’s well-being without stepping any boundaries. It’s healthier for everyone involved.
Set new goals
As your transition from a full-time parent to an empty nester, you can avoid the roller coaster of emotions and sense of loss by setting new goals and challenges for yourself. Consider setting goals that you’ve been thinking about for a while but parenting got in the way of you accomplishing them. You can also find new challenges to tackle and give you a sense of independence and fulfillment once they’re achieved.
Get motivated by setting deadlines and grow your skills as much as possible to meet your goals. A good rule of thumb: avoid making life-changing decisions in the first few months after your children have moved out, like selling your house or quitting your job.
Revive the romance in your marriage
Becoming an empty-nester might be confusing at first, like you’ve lost your direction. But think of it this way: it can be the perfect time to reconnect with your partner and revive the romance in your relationship. Now that your children have moved out, you can start focusing on making beautiful memories as a twosome.
It can either mean having a date night once a week, going out dancing, traveling more or preparing dinner for one another. Forget about the activities that centered around your children and start doing things that center around the two of you.
Parents who find themselves empty nesters often end up divorcing because of the changing family dynamics. You can avoid that by focusing on bringing back the spark in your relationship and enjoying your spouse’s company every chance you get.
Find support, if necessary
One of the biggest mistakes parents make when transitioning to empty nesters is trying to face their new situation by themselves. Instead of attempting to navigate these uncharted waters by yourself, ask for the support of your family members and friends to ease the transition. There’s no shame in asking for help. Just be honest about what you feel and be open to suggestions and advice from other people who have already experienced the same things you’re going through right now.
Organize brunches, dinner parties, coffee dates and consolidate relationships that are important to you and can help you with the process and with moving on with your life.
Schedule a vacation
It can be overwhelming to be in your own home after your children have moved out and constantly feel like something is missing. If you find it difficult to accept that you now have more empty rooms in your house, try to do things outside your house.
Plan a holiday to a place you and your spouse have always wanted to go, plan an itinerary and activities to do to take your mind off the fact that you now have an empty nest. With time, you will eventually process this fact and realize that it is, in fact, not that bad.
These 5 Useful Tips to Feel More Satisfied with Your Life might help you out with that, as well, so take a look!
Coping with changes and transitions, especially one as big as becoming an empty nester, is not an easy task. On the other hand, falling prey to negative thoughts and feelings of melancholy is quite easy if you spend too much time living in the past and wishing to go back in time. Before you know it, you become lonely and depressed.
To stop this from happening, do your best to avoid bad thoughts and stay positive. It’s normal to grieve and feel sad but no matter how difficult it may seem to stop doing it, take it as one of your empty-nester challenges. Instead of thinking you’re going back to an empty house, be grateful that your children are independent and mature enough to live on their own. Accept the fact that you can’t control your children’s lives forever, nor should you want to, for that matter. Focus on the positive aspects of your life instead of the negative ones.