It can be really difficult to transition to an empty nest after 18+ years of having kiddos in your home. In fact, it is one of the hardest things I have ever done. No matter how much you prepare yourself for the day your kids leave, it is never easy. Many parents experience what professionals call Empty Nest Syndrome, which is a feeling of significant grief when adult children move out of the home. These tips for empty nesters will help you avoid feelings of depression and possibly reinvent yourself as you navigate life as an empty nester.
The worst thing you can do when your children flee the nest is to sit around and allow loneliness to consume you. It is natural to miss your children, but this can be a time for you to try new experiences and enjoy this new stage in your life.
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How do you prepare for empty nest syndrome?
In U.S. News & World Report, Dr. Steve Schlozman states, “Every parent-child relationship is unique.” Therefore, parents should avoid a one-size-fits-all approach to preparing for the empty nest. Instead, parents should evaluate their relationship with their children to figure out the appropriate steps to take in preparing for their kids to leave home. There are, however, some basic ways that you can begin preparing mentally for this big transition:
- Begin practicing self-care regularly. This is is a great time to begin focusing on your physical and mental health.
- Work on your relationship with your spouse or partner. You’ve likely been so busy raising children that you’ve put your relationship on the back burner.
- Reconnect with your friends. As a mom navigating a booked and busy schedule, it can be difficult to connect with friends. Begin reaching out to friends and family that you’ve lost contact with over the years.
- Start exploring new hobbies. If it has been a long time since you’ve been able to do things that you like to do, you may have forgotten exactly what things bring you joy anymore. As you prepare for your kids to leave home, start exploring hobbies so you can find something you like doing. Here are some popular empty nester activities:
- If you have another activity you’ve been wanting to try, this is a great time to do so.
- Start seeing a counselor. If you feel like you are going to have a difficult time with your new normal, it might be a good idea to seek the assistance of a professional.
What are some tips for empty nesters?
Though the empty nest can be sad, there are so many things you can do to find joy in this new situation. It may take you some time to adjust but try hard not to consume yourself with negative thoughts. You want to do everything you can to avoid getting too depressed after your children move out.
Adjusting to the empty nest is tough. But as with all things, it gets better with time. Here are my best tips for adjusting to an empty nest.
1. Be real with yourself about how you feel about your kids moving out.
There is no shame in being sad about your children moving out of the house. If you are like most parents, your entire life has revolved around the children’s needs for 18 or more years. When all of that changes, you can have feelings of sadness, emptiness and loneliness, to name a few.
Don’t deny those feelings. Be honest about how you feel. Take time to journal about your feelings if you do not feel comfortable talking to someone about them. These feelings are very normal and you do not need to feel ashamed to accept that you feel that way.
2. Be intentional about how you spend time with your children before they leave.
If you know that your kids are going to be going away to college soon or moving out, be intentional about how you spend your time at home with them. It is important to make sure that you are teaching them things to be successful on their own but also making memories that they will cherish forever.
3. Start planning your new routine.
If your routine has been dominated by your children’s activities, you may want to begin planning your new routine. When my children were home, my weeknights and weekends were oftentimes booked with the children’s activities. When they left, it took me a while to figure out what to do with so much extra free time.
Go ahead and look over your schedule and think about replacement activities for those that involve your children. Instead of all-day volleyball tournaments, your time could now be spent volunteering, spending time with friends or resting! The thing to remember is that you will have blocks of time that you may not have had before. Start planning so you do not spend that time sulking or falling into depression.
4. Review/update estate plans.
If you have not reviewed your estate plans in a while, now may be a good time to do so. When your children become adults, you should have serious conversations with them about your intentions with your money and property.
These are uncomfortable and somewhat difficult conversations to have, but very necessary. Avoiding such conversations is irresponsible and can cause unnecessary conflict and difficulty in the future.
Best Journals for Self-Care
Journaling is one of my favorite self-care activities. It’s also a great way help you begin to move towards forgiveness. The key to making journaling a habit is to find a journal that you love. One of the first things I look for in a journal is one that is good quality, like this gratitude journal from Therabox.
I also love this guided self love journal that is filled with prompts and practices to help improve self-esteem and self-confidence.
These are just a few tips to help you cope with your new normal. Instead of wasting time being sad and depressed, support your children as they move into this exciting stage of life.