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Refilling the Empty Nest at Christmas - the upside of kids growing up!

Refilling the Empty Nest at Christmas - the upside of kids growing up!

The magic of Christmas is really special with young children in the house. But what happens when the little ones have grown and flown the nest, moved out with a partner or been away at university and found their independence? How does that change the dynamics of the festive season?

The upsides of an 'adult' Christmas

Well, there can be big upsides doing an ‘adult Christmas’. For those of you with school-age kids, imagine a world where you don’t dash around for hours finding the toy of the moment, sold out everywhere online or on the high street. A world where you don’t wake up at night with the horrific realisation that you haven’t re-positioned Buddy the Elf in an ever more creative scenario. How competitive that gets with celebrities such as Holly Willoughby and Stacey Solomon setting the bar high with Buddy hanging on for dear life to the shower head in the bath tub avoiding being eaten by gummy sharks, sitting coyly on a book shelf reading the Night Before Christmas or ‘drowning’ in a sea of mini marshmallows?! Although this American tradition is embryonic in its take up by the Brits, it is definitely gaining momentum and one we’re happy not to have to embrace annually!

There are a few things to consider when planning an adult Christmas.

When is the right time for the Christmas stocking to cease (obviously this is really decided by those at the North Pole)? Or would there be childish delight in a university student opening some wonderfully practical gifts from Father Christmas like Uber vouchers and toothbrushes, underwear or mini gin bottle ornaments and a subscription for Marie Claire?

One of the most significant changes of refilling the empty nest and having adults home for the holidays is more time. More time to decorate, more time to freeze ahead, more time to plan. Hopefully less stress too. There’s absolutely no need to wake up at the crack of dawn to heft a 20 lb turkey into the oven so that it’s ready at exactly 1 o clock. What adult wouldn’t thank you for the chance of a lie in on Christmas Day? How about a few canapés and breakfast nibbles until you eventually serve up a mid-afternoon feast, before falling into a tryptophan-infused nap in front of the telly - whilst your adult kids get on with clean up!

Finally… supposing they don’t come home at all at Christmasey don’t come home at all at Christmas

Activities don’t have to be centred around needy children, over-sugared, over-tired and cranky. A thousand-piece jigsaw left on a table that guests can potter around, a few pieces here, a few pieces there. Christmas movies with a Baileys or hot chocolate, reminiscing over childhood favourites. A cocktail/mocktail station where people can create their own drinks - and offer to make for the hosts of course.

Do we really need to send Christmas cards these days?

Polarising subject this… but one BILLION cards are bought each year in the UK. Does the planet really need this waste when all we put is ‘love from Claire and Mike’ with no other news inside. Wouldn’t a phone call really make someone’s day when we haven’t spoken in a while? Or even a digital Christmas card with a photo and a bit of chat would be warmly received.

Our wonderful British tradition of crackers at the table could do with an environmental makeover too. You could make some sustainable, reusable crackers - even buying the ‘snaps’ on Amazon - personalising them for the recipient with a joke or inspiration that would appeal. Alternatively, ditch the crackers and pop a lottery card in any denomination under the side plates. Couldn’t we all do with a little luck this season? (Tip: ask the seller for all the tickets to come from the same roll. The higher the number of tickets bought, the more likely there will be at least one winner, even small).

Finally… supposing they don’t come home at all at Christmas

As they meet life partners there’s every chance they will ‘flip flop’ between parents. It’s easy to get competitive. Who will offer the best Christmas lunch, the best atmosphere, the best treats? Just remember it’s YOU they come to see. So the house with the least stress and fewer rigid expectations will be the one that is most attractive.

If they’re not coming home, plan ahead. There are bound to be others who are alone this year or far from their families - invite them in, get together, have a potluck party but don’t be bitter. If you handle it right, your kids will be knocking on your door next year.

Liz & Michelle co-hosts of the podcast Two Women Chatting will be enjoying Christmas this year with some of their adult kids and friends!

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