Children leaving home and going off to college and having their own lives is always a difficult thing to go through as a parent. If you are one of those parents who is finding it hard to deal with an empty nest, then there are few things you can do to feel better.
As a therapist, I try to focus not just on concepts, but also on tangible actions to help people make concrete changes in their lives, no matter what issues they are facing.
This goes for facing an empty nest as well. Fortunately, there are very specific things you can do to help yourself get on with life after your now adult child is creating a life on their own.
Here Are 5 Strategies To Deal With Empty Nest Syndrome
1. Find something you love as much as you loved mothering (parenting…).
This is a quote from Sharon Greenthal and conveys a thought provoking challenge.
Hands-on parenting, slugging it out day by day, and finding immense fulfillment in that role, developed a part of me that would’ve lain dormant if I’d not had that opportunity. And since I became pregnant through IVF, I especially feel very lucky. But that chapter has ended. A healthy goal now is to find another part of yourself to be developed, another aspect of yourself that’s lying asleep and waiting to be discovered. That discovery could be within your spiritual self, creative self, or physical self. Maybe it’s something you wanted to do “years ago.”
Don’t allow the excuse of, “Oh, now I’m too old for that” to hold you back. Let’s face it. You may not be able to become an Olympian or some goal that requires youth, there’s some form of almost every activity that could be enjoyed at any age. You simply have to look.
2. Stay curious about what the two of you could learn/do/be together.
Get out that bucket list with your partner. Talk about goals you have together, things for the two of you to share and that you can both work on to bring you closer.
Perhaps this would be working on a garden together, going on a trip, volunteering for an organization, learning how to cook Chinese food, fixing up a room in your home, or learning how to ballroom dance.
Notice how often the word “learn” appears in that list. Curiosity kills two bird with one stone — it helps with empty nest and it keeps you from growing stale and stagnant in your own life.
So that you can fully be in the present together, you might also explore your relationship and talk about any emotional hurts that are keeping the two of you stuck in the past. This will allow you to enjoy each other’s company more deeply, and maybe even in ways that you could not when kids were around.
If you don’t have a partner, you can do the same with friends, family members, and even neighbors.
3. Make new friends while honoring the old.
Your child’s life is moving on; they’re making new friends and traveling to new places. You need to have fresh things to look forward to as well.
Have a neighbor over that you have always wanted to get to know, form a book club, take a class, or join a community non-profit group. Research gas shown over and over that being socially connected keeps us invigorated and energizes our lives.
Also make time for the friends that you’ve known for years but perhaps haven’t had contact with recently. Now that you have more time, reach out to them and renew those old bonds.
You may rediscover a part of yourself that you’d forgotten or let go; this could be a time to reinvigorate and allow that passion to bloom.