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Top Tips for Empty Nesters

Most parents in today’s world experience their children growing up and leaving home. This transition is not an easy one. Especially if you are a parent who has dedicated most of your time and energy to the needs of your children. For this reason, today I’m going to give you a list of the top things empty nesters can do to improve their experience during this transition.

  1. For the vast majority of empty nesters, maybe it is you, when the children leave the home, it is a major shock. There are some parents who chose to focus their lives on their children codependently because they perceive that to be the right and good thing to do, and are therefore super relieved when the children do leave the home, so they can finally focus on other things and on themselves. But for the vast majority of parents who suffer from empty nest syndrome, this is not the case. Rather, they felt their calling was to be in a support role. To do all the things that parenting requires, such as caretaking, managing, relationship skills, organization, focusing on others, structuring, communicating, educating, providing affection, anticipating needs and fulfilling them, behavioral management, supporting, guiding, protecting, nurturing, devoting yourself etc. Therefore, the worst part about the children leaving, is feeling like your purpose in life left with them. Most empty nesters feel stuck in a hellish limbo where they can’t go backwards to the role they were in anymore. But they also feel like they have no future, because their job is just suddenly done. This often causes empty nesters to feel old and past their prime because they didn’t have other things going for them. It also tends to throw parents into a depression because they resist accepting this reality and they don’t feel they have much, if anything to look forward to. 
    The single most important thing you can do as an empty nester is to re-assess your values and deliberately seek out new interests, new activities, new passions, new aspirations and new purpose for being. Your time, focus, energy and actions still exist. It simply needs to go somewhere else now. Again, there will be some parents who are super excited to totally switch in life and have their new interests and activities be totally unrelated to supporting and taking care of others. And if this is the case for you, now is your chance to have a new and second life and focus on you and what you always wanted to do, but never did. But for the majority of people who are really struggling with empty nest syndrome, one reason that their life and purpose feels over, is because of this this strange societal expectation that with the kids gone, what you should do is focus on you and do things like vacation and pick up hobbies. But none of that feels fulfilling. 
    For many empty nesters, their actual calling and actual purpose is to be in a support role. This is what drives them. It is what they can’t not do Their purpose for being is to give their energy to something or someone that needs it and can take it and use it. And so, if you are this kind of person, what you need to be looking for specifically is something new to lend your energy to. Something in need of support. Having dedicated your life to parenting, you have a very specific skill set. A very valuable one. And that valuable skill set can simply be re-directed. There are plenty of youth in this world that are in need of these things you offer naturally. There are plenty of causes in need of support. There are plenty of beings desperate for caretaking. Plenty of places in need of what you have to give and give naturally and are fueled by giving. Just to give you some ideas, you could become a mentor. You could get a job working with children. You could join up in a dedicated way with an organization you care about and pour your support into that. You could caretake animals. You could dedicate your services to helping out new mothers or you could become a medical caregiver etc. The real question for you to answer is: Do I want to use these skills and be in a new and different support role? Do I want to use these skills I have on something new or not? What you have to offer is very much needed and very much matters. So don’t slip into the illusion that you don’t matter anymore. Different things are now in need of what you have to give.                
  2. Dedicate time to really be with your feelings. And it can be a roller coaster of feelings. Don’t be ashamed of feeling what you are feeling. It makes sense you would be feeling things like grief, sadness, anxiety, devastation, disorientation, loss, despair and frustration. And rather than rushing to try to not feel the way you feel, go into the feelings themselves. Don’t try to suppress, deny, or hide the way you feel. One of the best exercises to do with the feelings that are coming up, is emotional experiencing. To learn how to do this, you can watch my video titled: How To Do The Emotional Experiencing Process.
  3. Let yourself rest and sleep without expecting yourself to get up and do something, until you feel intrinsically motivated to do so. One of the most common things to experience in this transition is tiredness, if not absolute exhaustion. That tiredness needs to be tended to, not bulldozed.     
  4. Be very proactive about being with other people and in person. Many empty nesters find themselves feeling very alone when their children leave. It can feel like you have poured yourself into these people (your children) only to end up by yourself. It is critical to not isolate. Go to gatherings. Invite friends over. Expand your social circle. Go visit people. Don’t just surrender to the idea that now you are alone and living alone if you don’t want it that way.  
  5. Actively face and deal with the things that were put on the backburner or avoided by focusing on your kids. When children leave the house, it can very quickly cause you to come face to face with the things you haven’t been dealing with or things that were deprioritized. Things like outstanding issues in your marriage/romantic partnership or even simply putting energy into your partnership if there are no outstanding issues, your health, your mental and emotional wellbeing, projects that need to be done. The more active you are about facing these things, prioritizing and resolving them, the better. It is super common for this transition to create relationship stress amongst couples who focused on their children to the detriment of nurturing and growing the relationship between each other, especially if both parents feel differently about the children leaving the house. It can make you feel alone with the impact that the experience is having on you.    
  6. Stay in touch with your children. And don’t drop your estimation of your continued importance in their lives. The time has come to get to know your child, but as an adult! The reality is, the role of being a parent never ends. The job simply changes over time. You are redefining what the relationship looks like. At one point, you had to feed them and carry them around everywhere because they couldn’t walk or feed themselves. That changed and at another point, they could walk and feed themselves, but they needed you to be there to talk them through issues and support them with their hobbies and homework. All this transition is, is another change in what the job of being a parent looks like. Your kids still need you. They just need you in different ways now. Think back to how you needed your parents to be there when you were their age and in this transition yourself, had your parents been able to be ideal. Check in with what they need and prepare to be surprised at how much they may want to handle things on their own. You have not lost your place in their life. What you have lost, is what being in that place looked like day to day before and how it looks now. Staying in touch with your children is part of continuing to be there for them. It is also a better strategy than simply not letting yourself connect with them when you need to and worrying about them rather than actually knowing how they are and what they are doing. The one thing you want to be careful of, is not making your child worry about you when you involve them in how you feel about the transition.
  7. Accept that you do not have control. Somewhere deep inside, you knew that your child is a being that belongs to the universe. That like you, they came here to this life with a very important purpose. And you knew that you would be a big part of the picture of them developing so as to fulfill that purpose. They did not come here to stay a child, dependent on you for everything for the rest of their life. You were raising them to be capable and competent and to be able to thrive in life. At a certain point, just like a bird who takes flight away from the nest, all you can do is place your faith in their capability. To trust them with their own life, knowing you will be there for them when they need you. The day they took flight was never going to be easy, and it would be according to their own timing. But they are flying off, equipped with the information and skills you spent years giving to them. Now, you must trust them to make the most of that information and those skills. Now, is the time to show them that you believe in them. And you trust them with their own life, even in this world that is both wonderful and terrifying. Let them go find and take their place within this world.      
  8. If you start to feel relief, don’t feel guilty. Rather, try to enjoy it. At a certain point, most empty nesters experience the feeling of relief. Potentially relief because you don’t have as much pressure on you. Or because you have a sense of unfamiliar freedom. Or because one huge part of your job that you poured all of your energy into is compete and done. Or because you can focus on self-care and put yourself first. There are a great many reasons why you may feel relief. This is something to be enjoyed. And no, it doesn’t mean that you don’t love your children. There is nothing wrong with feeling relief. Raising children is a lot of pressure. It is natural to feel relief when a significant portion of that pressure is suddenly off of you. That doesn’t mean that you didn’t love them or love having them in the house. If you thought about it, you could probably come up with other things you adore, but still feel relief about when it is over for one reason or another.     
  9. Prioritize and schedule some fun, and preferably out of the house. So far, we’ve been talking about very serious, proactive steps to take to make this transition go well. It is critical to add fun to the picture of this. Getting out of the house for whatever fun you have in mind is a good idea as well because for many empty nesters, the feeling of their child’s absence in the house or the silence in the house can be a consistent source of pain in the beginning. When we say that something is fun, what we mean is that we do it for the pure enjoyment of the doing of it. It doesn’t need to be something that serves any other purpose. This could look like so many different things because what people find fun differs from person to person. For one person this could mean games. For another, sports. For another, vacation somewhere they’ve been wanting to go. For another, a music festival. For another, the spa. For another, a tantra class. For another, hiking. For another, great food. Don’t be afraid to try new things. The worst that can happen is that you hate it and never want to do it again. The best that can happen is that you have found something new to enjoy about life. 

It is important to know that you are not alone. So many parents throughout history and even right now at this very minute have gone through and are going through exactly what you are going through. If you need support on any level to go through this transition, don’t try to soldier through it and don’t be hesitant to seek it! 

When our kids are little, the idea of sending them out into the world and not seeing them every day, is unfathomable. Yet the day will inevitably come for most parents when their child flies out of the nest and off into the world towards whatever adventure awaits them. Just like no one prepares you for how it will feel the day they come into your daily life, no one can prepare you for how it will feel when they leave home and go off into the world of adulthood. But they are going off into the world equipped with everything you spent so much time and focus and energy giving them. Let your time and focus and energy be called to the next place that needs it, somewhere new.


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