Tips to fill the void and embrace the empty nest!
Your children have left home, officially adults and it’s a new chapter in their lives but also a new one for you. Some parents are delighted that their kids have finally flown the nest but for many, it’s a time of loneliness and sadness. This is often referred to as empty nest syndrome.
For years your daily life has evolved around the kids, whether it’s cooking meals, endless washing, and tidying or ferrying them from place to place. Then suddenly your day-to-day life has changed, there is a void in your life and you feel a sense of loss and sadness. It’s okay to cry, it’s normal and the sadness will go away as you adjust to this new chapter in life. It may take a few days, a few weeks and for some longer a little longer but if you are struggling do seek professional help.
But remember what life was like before children? All that time you had to yourself and your partner. This is your chance to try new things or get back to doing the things you love. Yes, shed a tear or two but then move on and embrace the freedom. They will be back, whether, for weekends, holidays or even full time.
Be prepared for this transition in your life
It makes it so much easier if you are ready for this change in your life. Take a listen to the TWC podcast and check out our resources on empty nesting.
Plan ahead, especially for the first days. If you are dropping your child at university- stock up on extra strong tissues, pack your oversized sunglasses even if not’s sunny and try to keep your emotions in check. Your son or daughter will really appreciate it if you don’t cry in front of their new roommates- just hold it until you get back to the car. Line up TV shows to binge watch and plan dinner with friends or a trip to the theatre. Perhaps hold off booking a holiday immediately after they leave, just in case they need you those first few weeks.
Plan a casual supper or dinner party
Invite friends around to chat and discuss plans and thoughts on this next chapter of your life. It’s a great way to focus on the future and set some long-term goals and an ideal time to expand your culinary and baking skills.
Refresh your wardrobe and your look
Do some research and find a new hairdresser and ask them what they think of your hairstyle - be brave, you’ll be amazed what a new style can do for your confidence and image. Ask your friends what they think of your clothes and style – insist they are honest! (surely that’s what friends are for?). Hire a personal stylist, they are not just for the rich and famous who will help you edit your wardrobe and find items that complement your existing clothes.
Book a holiday or two and start planning for more
Without the kids around you can take advantage of quieter and cheaper travel times. Start planning trips to places you’ve always wanted to visit and actually book them. It is so easy to say yes we’ll do it but then life gets in the way – no excuses now the kids have gone and you do have the time. Whether it’s short trips or more lengthy ones there are so many fascinating and beautiful places out there. Plan day trips and weekends away. Visit art galleries and museums, lifestyle exhibitions, concerts, historic gardens or classic car shows. It’s a good way to add structure to your days if you don’t work and it’s always nice to have something to look forward to whether you go on your own or with friends or your partner.
Think about house sitting or pet sitting, house swapping, booking a festival, rent a motor home -the options are endless. We have lots of suggestions and ideas for unusual holidays on TWC resources page for both couples and solo travellers.
There are so many opportunities to volunteer - do think out of the box when it comes to volunteering. From local opportunities such as reading with young children to further afield such as conservation work in Tanzania to building a bridge in Cambodia.
Reconnect and do more with your partner
You may like many, have focused on your children rather than your partner over the years so now is the time to reconnect and remember why you fell in love. Plan date nights to chat about the future and discuss any concerns you might have. If you are a single parent it is especially important to think about how you would like the coming years to evolve.
Make time for yourself (no you didn’t misread this!)
You may find it hard to begin but now’s your chance to enjoy some serious ‘me time'. Read a book or magazine, indulge in relaxing baths, go to the movies (if you can go to the matinee performance all the better – it’s a whole new experience and often less expensive). If you haven’t discovered podcasts now is the time. There are thousands out there – why not start with TWC’s first series. If you are unsure how to listen to a podcast read the blog How to listen to a podcast.
Have a thorough clear-out and declutter of your home
It’s amazing how satisfying it can be to clear out clothes and items you have not seen let alone used for years and you can donate any unwanted items to charity or make a bit of extra cash and sell them on sites such as Vinted, eBay and Amazon Marketplace. Or try a car boot or garage sale they are super fun and a great way to meet new people- just don’t buy more stuff than you sell!
Take up a new hobby or activity
With the kids gone you have more time to explore or rekindle hobbies and sports.
Learn a new skill (or just try and master something you’ve been meaning to for years like how to text with your thumbs!). Whether it’s learning a new language, mastering those filters on your smartphone or learning to cook a Thai curry. There are numerous online courses and one site we at TWC discovered recently is BBC Maestro which offers courses by experts and celebrities including Heston Blumenthal on ingenious cooking at home and Gary Barlow on song writing.
Turn your hobby into a business
This is really where you can find your sense of purpose after the kids leave home. If you have excellent writing skills consider guest blogging, writing a book or TV script, accomplished creatives start selling your designs and products at fairs or online, animal lovers become a dog walker or sitter and if you enjoy completing surveys and research you can get paid to do them online. The options are endless.
Upskill or change career
Now could be the time to totally change careers and study law, teaching, oenology or train to be a marriage registrar . You don’t have to physically attend some courses anymore although it is a great way to meet new people. Take a look at Rest Less or Life Redefined for some inspiration on a career change or push for that promotion now that you can commit more energy and time.
Join a club or community committee
Committees and clubs are a perfect way to meet new people – some you can dip in and out of whilst others require more time and commitment.
Think about your health and your future
Becoming an empty nester often coincides with the menopause. It can be a time of rollercoaster
emotions and anxiety but there is a lot of support out there so don’t struggle on your own.
Take a little time to think about yourself, how you feel and what are your long term goals and objectives.
Connect with friends and family
It’s so easy to neglect friendships and extended family when raising kids but this is the perfect time to reconnect with old friends over the phone on social media or in person. Be proactive and plan a reunion, you’ll be amazed how so many people say ‘YES I was thinking we should meet!'.
And finally ….
Remember just because your children have left home does not mean they don’t need you - they still require your support and love, just in a different way. They will be home for a day, a weekend or even longer if they are college students. Revel in their visits home, hearing about their new life and friends and be so very proud of the job you have done as a parent.
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