I love how irony works. I think empty nest syndrome is the perfect example. Parents love their kids, but can’t wait to get back to some alone time. When the kids leave, they’re too depressed to actually enjoy each other’s company.
I know some might say that empty nest syndrome doesn’t exist, but for those who seem like they’re barely surviving an empty nest right now, it’s all too real.
Don’t worry. I have hope for you. These tips will help you deal with that empty nest until your children inevitably come back for advice and love (or money and food).
1. Remember It’s Okay To Check-In
The sudden jump from being a full-time parent to watching your only child or last child leave the nest isn’t always easy. In fact, at least 25% of people say they’ve had to deal with empty nest syndrome. So trust me, you’re not alone.
One of the easiest ways to survive this transition is to stay in contact with your children. First off, think back to being a teenager or young adult. I, for one, wouldn’t have wanted my parents calling every single day at first. Give your child some space, but call once a week to check-in. It’ll help you deal and give your child a chance to ask for any advice if they need it.
2. Talk With Each Other
I normally hear people talk about an empty nest in relation to all the children leaving, but that’s not always the case. Sometimes when you have multiple children, younger kids are affected just as much as the parents when their older sibling leaves. Whether you still have at least one child left at home or you’re just there with your spouse, talk to each other.
This is a big change for everyone. Talk it out. When you’re feeling lonely or down, talk to your spouse. Listen to their concerns and those of any children still at home.
3. Make A Empty Nest To-Do List
Let’s face it, you’ve at least thought about all the things you’d love to do the moment your home was child free. I don’t think I’ve ever met a parent that didn’t have an empty nest dream list. Think about all those things again and write them down.
First of all, don’t feel guilty. You spent years devoting your life to your children. You deserve to take some time off now that they’re on their own. Besides, they can always call if they need you. Make your list and then start checking off some items.
4. Skip Any Other Major Changes
I know some people down play an empty nest as nothing major, but for many parents, especially full-time, stay-at-home parents, it’s a drastic transition that takes away part of their identity. It takes time to handle that and find yourself again. For now, try to skip any other big changes, such as moving to a new city or if you’re single, jumping into a relationship. Take time for you right now.
5. Schedule A Regular Conversation
Even if your child gripes about it, make a deal with them to have a regular Skype session or phone call. Texting is okay, but it might not provide the closeness you’re wanting right now. Knowing that you’ll definitely get to talk to your child at a specific time each week or even month helps you survive and transition during this period. This is especially helpful for extremely long distance situations.
6. Get Closer With Your Spouse (Or A Friend)
Being a parent isn’t easy. In fact, I’ve always heard stories about incredible parents who put their own social lives aside to spend more time with their children and make sure they had what they needed first. It’s a wonderful sacrifice and it’s led to amazing kids, but when those kids leave the nest, it’s time to change your focus.
Spend some time getting closer with your spouse or significant other. Re-kindle that fire that got you together to start with. If you’re single, embrace a more social lifestyle. Go out with friends or co-workers. Get together with other parents. Building better or new relationships makes the transition much easier.
7. Talk To Your Own Parents (Or Other Empty Nesters)
My guess is you feel like the only parents who have ever went through this. You’re far from the first and you won’t be the last. As with anyone dealing with a big transition, it sometimes helps to talk to others who are going through the same thing. Start by talking with your own parents, if possible, to see if they have any advice for you.
The next step is to find other empty nesters. I love the idea of sites like Meetup, that help you find groups with similar interests.
8. Discover A New Hobby
I know it sounds completely cliche, but stick with me a minute. Think about something you enjoy doing and how it affects your mood. You feel better right? Instead of just going with what you know, immerse yourself in a new hobby. It’ll take your mind off the transition more and help you ease into learning to live without someone constantly taking over the house.
9. Enjoy Some Reminiscing
I don’t know why a child leaving the house has to mean you’re not allowed to think about them at all. Your children are still a major part of your life. Look at old photos, talk about favorite memories and go to their favorite restaurants. Enjoying the memories helps them stay a part of your life while you transition. Of course, odds are, they’ll be back sooner than you think. For instance, college students always have dirty laundry for you to take care of.
10. Don’t Pretend You’re Not Affected
I know you want to be brave right now, but don’t try to fake it. If you’re having a hard time dealing, admit it. Even if your spouse seems okay, it’s okay for you to feel like it’s a major problem. Sometimes you’ll need help in dealing with the transition. In fact, for some, it can lead to lasting feelings of sadness and loneliness that can affect all areas of your life if you don’t admit there’s a problem.
11. Give Yourself Something To Look Forward To
I don’t care what it is, but find something to look forward to. Sitting around your house all day wishing your kids were wrapped safely in your arms isn’t going to help you transition. Plan a weekend getaway or find out when your kids are coming back to visit. Schedule a fun date night with your spouse or a day away with friends. When you have something to look forward to, it keeps your spirits up and you’re able to handle that empty nest much better.
Empty nests happen to all parents, but trust me, you can and will survive this.
My name is Jess Brighton, a Minneapolis based Life, Adversity and Reinvention Coach. Learn more about me and my coaching services by visiting www.jessicabrighton.com.
If you have a question about this or another topic email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your complimentary 30 minute strategy session.
Image: Noah Hinton