Lori Pelikan Strobel can be found at her website of the same name. She can also often be found walking her dog Louie, sitting at a coffee shop, writing, or doing all of the above while working hard on her upcoming book. Here she shares a bit about life as a new empty nester and what helped her move forward with her day-to-day.
The empty nest phenomenon happens when a child leaves home for college, a job, or other reasons. Learning how to accept the change in your family dynamic can be challenging. The home nest is rearranged and different. It can feel out of sorts. It’s especially hard when the last child moves out and then the nest is completely empty. Empty Nest Syndrome can bring feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and sadness. If not treated in a positive way, all these feelings can lead to depression.
For the parents, this stage of life is both a challenge and opportunity. Planning ahead and figuring out how you want to live this new stage of life can be fun. Instead of calling it the empty nest, let’s call it the emerging nest. So, don’t pull the panic alarm. Choose to live a full and interesting life as you lead by example for your children. Oftentimes parents can feel that they are getting older and there is a loss of youthfulness around the house. However, turn that thought on its heels because you may be surprised to find that you have more energy and feel recharged. It’s okay to have sad feelings, but it’s important to move forward in this transition. There are positive effects to this empty nest stage and there is no time like the present to start.
10 Ways to Survive Being an Empty Nester
1. Accept that you did a good job.
First and foremost, congratulations to you! This is the next step in raising independent children. This is what’s supposed to happen. They are off to learn more of what it takes to be a grown up.
2. Redefine your role as a parent.
Learn to parent with a respect to your kid’s growing self-sufficiency. Parenting doesn’t stop just because your children have flown the coop. Use the distance to learn how to parent differently. You can discover wonderful conversations and learn about who your child is becoming by listening even more.
3. Heed your own advice.
Remember that at this period of time you and your child are experiencing similar things. You are gaining more independence from your child rearing ways, as your child is gaining more independence from you. The advice you give to your child as they move forward and out should be advice that you listen to, as well. Make friends by joining clubs, follow your interests, or look to something new that you always wanted to do. Don’t forget to reach out to those old friends for a phone call because they might be experiencing something similar.
4. Learn to like your own company.
It may be hard at first to enjoy being alone, but it’s important to learn how to keep company with yourself. Start small and go for a walk alone, eat dinner alone; these small doses allow you to reset. This may be easier for some of us, but either way you will learn to enjoy your own company.
5. Get busy savoring your space.
If you are totally an empty nester, this one is for you. You can go to bed without waiting or listening for your child to come home. You get to decide how you want your house to look inside. Is it time to put everything in its place, redo the closets, maybe a long-awaited makeover? Or is it time to drop your clothes on the floor, leave your dishes in the sink, and get your laundry straight from the dryer? Reclaim a closet and hold on to the remote. It’s entirely up to you. Finally!
6. Give time to your relationship.
If you are in a relationship or are looking to be in one, now is the time to develop it. After years of focusing on your children you can now focus on re-acquainting, rebuilding, or finding a relationship. Do something for just the two of you. Go on walks, enjoy a nice uninterrupted meal, begin to date again.
7. Embrace technology.
Learn to love technology and know you are only a call, text, Facetime, Snapchat, Instagram, or tweet away. Pick your kid’s favorite way to communicate with you and embrace it. Perhaps now that they are older they won’t mind you being friends with them on Facebook. Maybe make a plan to text one another on Mondays just so you know your child survived the weekend. You probably won’t hear from them from Thursday night until Monday afternoon anyway. Just sayin!
8. Keep busy immediately.
Make sure to immediately have something planned for the first weeks, weekends, and months after you child has left. Go out to dinner with friends or have a big party at your home. Go away on vacation or go visit friends. No matter what stage of empty nest you are in, there is something you can do differently. Now is the time to finally go to a concert, or spa. If you still have kids at home, do something unique and unusual with them. Those left at home will also feel the absence; the empty seat at the table or in the car. Just do something!
9. Look forward to moments.
At this empty nest stage, any moment spent with your child is to be treasured because it doesn’t happen as often as it used to. Make family memories during that last year of high school or college, and then continue to cherish time spent as a family—a quick dinner, a movie on demand, summer vacation rituals. These become a source of stability for you and your child as you both move forward.
10. Finding your passion.
You may feel like you have lost your identity, but it’s time to reevaluate yourself. Pick up a new or old hobby. Learn to Zenga, read more books, or cook food that you like. You will find you have more time, so start looking at something you have an interest in. You may have been known as “Julia’s mom” for so long that you have forgotten who you are. Redefine you; find your passion, and your purpose.
Now that you have your survival list in hand, pick two things to start today. Perhaps the kids will be amazed at how interesting you are. Before you know it, they will either be home on break or be moving back in with you! So, don’t focus on the empty nest. Focus on the emerging nest!