Coping with the Empty Nest Syndrome
If you’ve had children, then you know raising them takes up a huge majority of your life. Now I don’t have any kids, but I witnessed my parents raise my sister and I, so I know just how much they took time in their lives to dedicate to raising us.
But now that I’m 21-years-old and my sister’s 28-years-old, my parents aren’t so caught up in our daily lives like they use too be. I’m only home about three months out of the year and although my sister still lives at home, she spends the majority of her time at work. Now comes the issue of what are my parents to do when the certain lifestyle they lived for so long -a lifestyle revolved around their children-no longer exists.
Thus introduces us to the term called “Empty Nest Syndrome” aka your children have flown the coop! Empty nest syndrome refers to feelings of depression, sadness, and, or grief experienced by parents and caregivers after children come of age and leave their childhood homes. It’s a common experience many parents go through at least at some point in their lives.
Yet it’s important to view this stage of life as a new chapter. It’s a time of transition which can be characterized with excitement instead of dwelling on a feeling of loss. Think of this time to be all about you and your partner again. It can be really thrilling to think of all the things you can do now that you’re done micromanaging your children. You can do something huge like go back to school or something small like putting together a new garden. The choices before you are essentially endless.
The first step in transitioning into this new way of life is acceptance. You might have to let yourself cry and feel the pain, or it could help to speak out loud about how you feel, or maybe write down your thoughts and feelings in a journal. Support from your partner, family, or friends can also really help you get through the shock.
Make sure to keep in touch with your children as well. Reach out to them through social networks and regular phone calls. Have fun planning special family trips and holiday events to look forward to. You also want to let them know you’re getting on with your life and spending your time how you want.
After coming to terms with your new given lifestyle, you can then focus on your future.
Check out the suggestions below:
- Reconnect with your spouse. Use your empty nest time to get re-acquainted with each other and remember the relationship you had before your children came along. You can rekindle the romance, have privacy in the house, travel, the list goes on. And if you don’t have a spouse, perhaps now is the time to reacquaint yourself with the dating scene or maybe you’ll simply enjoy spending more quality time by yourself, perhaps re-igniting passions for something you used to do before kids ever came along.
- In the beginning, avoid making any big decisions. The key is to enjoy the not knowing of what’s next. Give yourself time to adjust and focus on smaller changes.
- Make friends again. Now is a great time to refocus on the relationships with your current friends and make an effort to meet new ones.
- Try volunteering. There’s so many places looking for help such as the local library, homeless shelter, food bank, church, or with a civic group. Volunteering will immerse you in a new environment where you’re able to work for a cause and meet new people along the way.
- Now’s the time to put that passport to good use! You don’t have to worry about who’s going to watch the kids for you while you travel, which means no limitations as to where you can go and for how long. Explore the idea of exploring and see the world.
- One word: Hobbies. Get involved in something you have wanted to always do, but did not have enough time to do previously. Take a class, play a sport, read a book or write a book. Get back to an old passion and really focus on expressing it.
- Focus on your health. Dedicate time for exercising and making healthy food choices. You don’t have to worry about cooking a meal the whole family will like. You’re free to try whatever new recipes you find without getting anyone else’s approval. On top of that, you’re schedule really opens up to attend that spin class you’ve been wanting to go to or take up something new, like karate or yoga.
So what have my 57-year-old parents been doing with their new freetime? Well, they both still continue to work but they foresee retirement in the near future. My father has focused on lot more of fixing things up around the house and is currently re-doing our basement. My mother has chosen a more drastic decision and got a puppy! Boy does that little thing keep her busy and it’s so funny how she’s constantly comparing him to a little kid. But it just goes to show you, there are plenty of ways to spice up your everyday life and if you’re not ready to take on a puppy (aha) maybe give volunteering at your local shelter a try instead.
As you get comfortable in your new empty nest, don’t forget to continue being a parent. Just because your children have left, doesn’t mean they still don’t need you. I know for a fact because I still call my parents all the time for various things (advice, help, questions, just to say hi, etc.). Your kids will always need you, no matter their age.
We’d love to hear about your empty nest adventures so make sure to Submit Your Story!
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