5 Tips to Thrive as an Empty Nester

Becoming an Empty Nester: A Guide

 

Many parents expect to feel a profound sense of accomplishment when their kids grow up and move out of the house. In reality, however, many feel intense grief and a loss of purpose. While it's natural to experience difficult emotions as you adjust to your new role in your child's life, there are ways to cope and thrive as an empty nester. If your high schooler or young adult child has recently moved out of the home, these five tips can help you thrive in this new phase of life.

Reconnect with yourself. To prepare for an empty nest, it's good to find enjoyment in things other than parenthood. Ideally, this should begin long before your children leave the house. Parents who are able to achieve balance in their lives tend to have a much easier time coping with empty nests. Instead of spending all of your time and focus on child-rearing, focus on maintaining other hobbies, interests and social relationships. That said, you should also spend plenty of quality time with your kids now, since many parents experience empty nest guilt for not spending enough time with children when they were young. 

Accept your new role. Some people experience an overwhelming need to continue parenting a child who has already left home. They may attempt to ward off empty nest grief by making frequent texts and phone calls, delivering home-cooked meals or scheduling appointments for their adult children. They may also develop anxiety as they worry whether their adult child is sleeping, eating or taking proper care of themselves. It's important for parents to acknowledge that their role has changed, or they risk pushing their adult children away and exacerbating their feelings of loss. 

View the bright side. While parenting is very rewarding, it is also a difficult journey requiring ongoing sacrifice. Parents don't have a lot of time for self-examination or personal growth. There's also little time to focus on career goals or spend quality time with a partner. Once your child has moved out, you have an opportunity to travel and spend more time doing the things you love. If you are having difficulty recognizing or embracing the positive aspects of your new situation, consider talking to a counselor to work through your feelings of grief and loss. 

Plan your days. It's important for empty nesters to schedule out every part of their days—from work to free time—to keep from feeling purposeless. It can also help to take up a new hobby or solo pursuit. This could mean enrolling in a new class, planning a vacation or taking up a fitness plan. It could even mean going back to school or starting a side-hustle to bring in extra income. 

Take it slow. Don't expect to become a new person overnight. Begin by setting small, manageable goals that promote new habits that can take the place of routines that used to center on caring for your child. According to experts, it can help to make a list of everything you loved about parenting and all the things you won't miss. This can help you be more realistic about things and avoid idealizing the past.

The caring therapists at Foundations Counseling can help you and your family overcome life’s greatest challenges. Contact us today!