Now that your little birdies have grown up and flown from your nest, your life and your free time are about to change. Congratulations, you’re now an empty nester. When our children leave our homes, it can be frightening and stressful. We spend time worrying if they’re doing okay; and, we may even experience feelings of loneliness and bouts of sadness. However, it is important to take time to care for yourself as a new empty-nester. There are many activities that you can partake in that will fill your time and your heart as you make the transition to a child-free home.Self-care for empty nesters is essential as you learn to parent adult children.
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5 Tips to Focus on Yourselves as a Couple
More than likely, you’ve put your own self-care on the backburner as you tended to your parenting duties over the past several years. You are not alone. But, here is some good news: the empty nest is the best time to reestablish your self-care routine and learn to put yourself first again. Take time to focus on self-care for empty nesters.
Here are 5 self-care tips for empty nesters:
1. Keep in Touch and Learn to Accept Missed Communication
Your first few weeks of empty-nesting will have you missing your children like never before. You might have the urge to call them every five minutes to check up. You may feel the urge to sit in their room or even lay in their bed and reminisce on all the wonderful memories you’ve made over the years. This is normal, but you should also plan for ways to keep in touch with your not-so-baby bird.
Communicate with your child to collaboratively find the best way to keep in touch. You may want to call and hear their voice every so often, but their schedule may not align with daily or weekly phone calls. They may feel like an ongoing text message will suffice while you want to have the personal touch of a phone call. It is important to communicate with your child and find a way that you both feel comfortable keeping in touch.
Plan a few options to move forward with and see what fits best. Maybe you work out a weekly phone call or FaceTime or perhaps it works best to send a few text messages throughout the week. Having a basic plan will make you both feel better about keeping in touch while still promoting independence.
Keep in mind that communication plans do not always work perfectly. Sometimes a weekly phone call may be missed, or text may go unanswered. It is important to understand the child’s new schedule of independence is always changing. Furthermore, your work schedule may not allow you to be available when your child is free.
Learn to accept that sometimes communications get missed. In most situations, your child is not ignoring you on purpose. Learning to accept these miscommunications will keep the stress out of your relationship.
If you have more than one child, missed communication might not have as big of an impact as it does when your last child leaves home. Often, the first time that you have to experience missed communication is devastating and sends your mind spiraling in many different directions.
NOTE: Every family’s preference about what is/is not acceptable communication differs. Do not look for a specific formula to determine what’s right for your family.
2. Relearn How to Relax
When the kids leave and we are left with quiet time of our own, it may be hard for some new empty nesters to learn how to relax. It is almost guaranteed that the entire time that your child was in your home, there was always something to keep you busy.
Whether it be cleaning up, catching up on chores, or partaking in family activities, there was always something to fill your time. Now that your child has moved out of your house, you have a lot of extra time for yourself. You must relearn how to relax.
You can retrain yourself to relax by starting with small moments of your day that are specifically set aside for relaxation. This could be scheduled time watching your favorite show with your feet kicked up or even a nightly bath or shower with bubbles or shower bombs.
It could be taking time for your favorite drink, or curling up with a great new book. You may even decide to start a daily meditation routine to just sit and focus on your breathing. Whatever it is, be sure to start slow and add more and more time each day. It is important to balance your relaxation so that you are still getting the calm moments that you deserve without wasting your entire day on the couch feeling sad because your children are away.
3. Find a New Hobby or Reconnect with an Old One
With all that extra time on your hands, it’s the perfect time to pick up a new hobby. Now that you have additional time in your schedule and additional space in your home, you can try all the things that you wanted to try but never had the opportunity to. Whether you find a hobby that you like doing by yourself or one that gets you out and about with other people, you will fill your time with constructive new activities.
If you are searching for a hobby that you enjoy, be sure to start small. It can be easy to take the excitement of a new activity and go overboard by buying everything that you could want to partake in that hobby. Start with a few beginner items to test the hobby and see if it is something that you can see yourself doing long-term.
If you really enjoy it, consider adding new materials or tools every few weeks or months as you progress. It can also be helpful to find groups in your area that are also interested in the same hobby. Becoming a member of one of these groups can introduce you to people with similar interests while helping you get better at the hobby.
4. Reconnect with an Old Friend
As our families grow, we tend to lose touch with many of our friends. The necessities of family life are often put before social gatherings or connections with friends. It is probably likely that your friends are becoming empty nesters as well. Having an empty nest is the perfect time to reconnect with an old friend.
It may seem nerve-wracking to reach out to someone who you have not talked to in a long time. However, you will likely pick up right where you left off. Try inviting your friend over for lunch or agree upon an activity that you both used to do before needing to put your family first. You may have the opportunity to build a lifelong friend and invite someone who you care about back into your life.
5. Establish A New Routine
The last two decades of your life were most likely filled with hectic mornings and stressful bedtimes. An empty nest is a perfect time to start new morning and evening routines that will benefit you throughout your day.
Your morning routine should reflect how you want to travel through each day. Now that the only one that you must get ready and out the door is yourself, you can do whatever you want with your morning. Consider setting a morning alarm at the same time every day.
Give yourself an hour or two every morning to cater to everything you need. Make yourself a coffee, prepare breakfast, stretch, perform gratitude meditation or journal. These are all great options to include in your morning routine. They will help you start your day with gratitude and calmness that will carry you to the end of the day. Finding the perfect morning routine can change your life for the better and make you more productive and more relaxed.
Your bedtime routine is just as important. Consider taking the hour before bedtime to take care of yourself. Put your phone away and pick up a good book. Take a calming shower or bath.
Spend time journaling or meditating about your day. Whatever you choose to do with your nightly routine, make sure that it prepares you for a great night of sleep so that you can then approach every day well-rested and ready.
Focusing on Your Relationship After the Kids Leave
Without a doubt, transitioning to an empty nest is very difficult. However, it’s a very natural progression of life. Even though you may be missing your child like crazy, there is a level of pride present that can’t be ignored.
Instead of spending time focusing on being sad about your new family dynamics, focus on taking care of yourself. You can now be unapologetic about putting yourself first and establishing a self-care routine that will have others envious of you!
Empty Nest Syndrome
Sometimes, parents experience what’s known as Empty Nest Syndrome. Though Empty Nest Syndrome is not a clinical diagnosis, it is very common. What this generally refers to is the feelings of sadness and loss of purpose that parents feel when their young adults leave home.
This absence can sometimes have an effect on the mental health of the parent, which can lead to the need for professional help. The important thing to remember is that this is a great opportunity to try new things and establish a new normal in this new phase of life.
Psychology Today has an article that gives tips and strategies for dealing with the symptoms of empty nest syndrome. In Facing Empty Nest Syndrome, Dr. Stephanie A. Sarkis compares the Empty Nest Syndrome feelings to those similar to grief that one may feel when there is death in the family. She also goes on to point out specific things you can do to help ease the transition to the transition to the empty nest, hopefully making this a less difficult time for you.
Family physician Dr. Kyle Bradford Jones talks about the dangers of Empty Nest Syndrome in an interview with the University of Utah. He notes that parents may need time to adjust to the emptiness and new change in the house. He also reiterates that the empty nest is a hard transition that could possibly require the assistance of a physician or therapist.
Final Thoughts for Empty Nesters
The Empty Nest stage of life is a new chapter that may take some time for parents to adjust to. It can also be a time for new opportunities for those who have been consumed with parenting for the past few decades. It’s the ideal time to focus on self-care for empty nesters.
It’s important to understand that this stage affects parents in different ways and that if the feelings of loss become too difficult to deal with alone, there are medical professionals who can help you get through this tough time.
Collegiate Parent, Caring for Yourself as the Empty Nest Begins
Grown & Flown, Five Ways to Focus on Self-Care as Your Empty Nest Looms