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6 Ways to Deal with Empty Nest Syndrome

posted: 08/11/15
by: Mara Betsch
empty nest syndrome couple drinking coffee
iStock

Most parents have probably daydreamed about the perks of an empty home when their teenager was being, well, a teenager, but when the day finally comes, some are surprised at their reaction. When your child leaves home, you'll be so concerned with how he or she will fare without your help and support, you might forget that this is a transition for you, too. You've spent 18 years (or more!) raising this child, and once the novelty of peace and quiet wears off, you may have to confront real feelings of loneliness and loss. Here are a few tips for dealing with an empty nest.

Plan a regular date night with your partner.

When you're raising children, you and your spouse may find that you've transitioned from husband and wife to mom and dad. You may find that while you were total pros at parenting together, you've forgotten what it's like to be romantic partners. That's perhaps why the divorce rate goes up the year after children leave the home. This, of course, doesn't happen for every couple, but try setting time aside time for you and your spouse to do something you enjoy doing together to reconnect, like taking an evening walk, going to dinner, or gardening on Saturdays.

Create a list of roles you have in your life.

This will help you focus less on your role as "parent" and more on new potential identities. These may include wife or husband, brother or sister, daughter or son, manager, friend, volunteer, pet owner, board member, etc. Think about which of those roles you want to reinvest in, and write down how you plan to expand them.

Make weekly plans with friends.

You're probably going to need support, so it's time to reach out to other empty-nester friends, or friends that have children of similar ages, and set up a time to have coffee, go to dinner, or even exercise with someone who understand what you're going through (and isn't your spouse). You can even host a weekly event at your place to restore some chaos to your home.

Find a hobby.

Even if you have a full-time job, you may underestimate how much free time you'll have without all the dirty laundry to wash and big meals to cook. Many moms feel regret that they didn't accomplish everything they wanted to while raising children, and this is your time to explore a passion you've always had -- and potentially make new friends. Make a list of things you want to do and get started! Sign up for a writing class, join a book club, or decide you're finally going to start the vegetable garden you've been talking about for a decade. This can help you forge a new identity other than simply "mom."

Keep in touch.

Just because your child is moving away and moving towards a new life doesn't mean you can't be part of it. We wouldn't recommend turning into a helicopter parent and texting every hour, but we would recommend setting up a regular time for you two to communicate. Texting is fine, but if you can schedule a weekly Face-Time or Skype chat, that's even better.

Schedule a time when the entire family can be together.

Once kids leave the home, it's hard to get everyone under the same roof. That being said, it always helps to have something to look forward to. Before your child leaves, discuss when you think he or she will be able to return, whether that's for a long weekend or holiday or simply to do laundry. Having a date on the calendar will take some anxiety away from the situation. If you have several children away from home, see if they're able to come back as well. And, if all else fails, plan a family vacation. If you offer to foot the bill, or at least help pay for it, we bet your kids will absolutely want to come along.