7 Simple Ways to Make the Best of an Empty Nest
It’s hard living with an empty nest. Your child has been a major part of your life and then suddenly, they’re not. You might even feel like you’ve been abandoned—because, in a sense, you have. Letting go of your primary identity as a parent can be a huge adjustment. These feelings of loss can be overcome, however, by learning to manage how you react. After all, you can’t change the fact that your child has left home—and you wouldn’t want to! But you can change your response. Developing some new coping skills can help you get back on track and ready to handle whatever life decides to throw your way.
Herewith, then, are seven simple ways for you to redirect your energies for this new phase of life.
1. Be Inspired
Just as your kids go off to grow and learn, you too can use this time to develop new skills. Go back to something that you have long wanted to do, or something you worked on when you were just starting out but had to put on hold when children arrived—that novel, photography, knitting, or martial arts. Return to an early love, or find a new passion. Reinvent yourself! Why should your kids have all the fun?
2. Provide a Secure Base
Let’s face it: as hard as it is to let our children go, we want to launch them into the world as responsible adults who can build a life for themselves. So send them off with love, but also be sure to let them know you'll be there to lend a helping hand. Giving your child this assurance will do wonders for their sense of security and well-being—and give you a renewed sense of purpose as well.
3. Keep Moving
Easier said than done, I know. But sitting at home and worrying about your past or your children will only make things worse. So get up and get moving. Go outdoors and commune with nature. Start hiking or kayaking or biking. Take that kickboxing class you’ve always thought about. Increasing your activity is not only fun, but it will help release endorphins, which has been shown to naturally elevate your mood.
4. Be in the Moment
Getting out of the house won’t remove all of your worries, of course. You can’t know what will happen in the future, for either you or your child, so as you find those worries cropping up, bring your focus to the here and now. Put your energy into experiencing where you are and what you’re doing. Take a step and enjoy that part of the journey, without thinking about all the steps to come. Remember to breathe.
5. Congratulate Yourself
It’s a big achievement to raise a child who has the skills necessary to live an independent life. You’ve given your all for a lot of years, so find a way to congratulate yourself. Give yourself a spa day, splurge on a great golf course, take a weekend getaway to a posh resort. Use it as a chance to reset, to relax, and to reward yourself for a job well done.
6. Go Out on a Date
A common reaction for parents after their children have gone is “Who is this person I’ve been married to?” When the demands of childcare have taken up so much of your time, it’s natural for romance to be on the “back burner.” Now is the time to rediscover the reasons you got together in the first place. Make plans ahead of time to go on a date with your partner for a special occasion and rekindle the romance.
7. Be Prepared
Did you think your nest would stay empty forever? Studies have shown that more than 21 million young adults have chosen to return to their parent’s home after moving away. So don’t be surprised if the loss you feel today is suddenly replaced by the trepidation that you feel when they return home tomorrow! Whatever your preferences, set clear expectations with your children, and build a life in this new phase that is flexible enough to accommodate whatever comes.