It’s official – you’re an empty nester. After the good part of two entire decades spent raising your kids, they now have places of their own. Whether you just dropped the last one off at college or they’ve gone off to seek their fortunes in the world, the result for you is the same: an oddly quiet house and more time on your hands.
What should you do now?
Feel the Whole Gamut of Emotions
Watching your kids strike out on their own is a triumph for you because it’s the culmination of all those childrearing years. You will feel pride and love and total joy. And you will feel sadness, verging on genuine grief.
This transition causes the whole gamut of emotions, which can lead to extra feelings of anxiety. You want your child or children to become independent, successful adults, while at the same time hoping that you all remain close as a family unit.
You can have both, of course. The first step is coping with your emotions. Here are some ways that you can manage your full gamut, followed by strategies to make your next chapter in life exciting and fulfilling for you and your spouse or partner.
Cope with Your Feelings
There’s no denying the grief and sadness you may feel when your last child moves out. There’s a sudden form of emptiness in the house, reminding you that the change is real. There’s even a clinical diagnosis for a condition doctors call “Empty Nest Syndrome.”
Experts would warn you not to deny your feelings – accept them and know that the sadness will play itself out. Once that happens, you can begin to build your new “empty nester” lifestyle.
Do you find yourself wondering, is there life after retirement? Read this article to learn about common fears and solutions for empty nesters preparing for retirement.
Plan Some Get-Togethers
You kid(s) aren’t living at home any longer, but you can still schedule family get-togethers. A weekend trip that includes a family meet-up can do a lot to soothe your sadness. Plus they’ll probably want some home-made meals and maybe get their laundry done, right?
Schedule Some “Us Time”
Hopefully, along with the full gamut of emotions you and your spouse or partner may be feeling, there’s also a touch of excitement about your new-found freedom. A Clark University study found that even though 84 percent of parents felt a longing for their kids when they moved out, 60 percent were happy to have more time to spend with each other.
Stay in Touch
While you’re getting used to your new life as an empty nester, it’s helpful to be reminded that we live in the digital era. Your kids are just an email, text, or even video chat away. The biggest problem is not how to communicate but how often.
Every family is different, with dynamics that range from the need to have daily contact to maybe just a few times per month. Experts advise parents to let their grown children take the lead on how often they need to communicate. It’s hard, but try and show some restraint. Trust that they will share their thoughts and feelings with you when they’re ready.
Start Making the Most of an Exciting New Chapter
Once you and your family have dealt with your feelings, worked out a communication plan, and had a few get-togethers to solidify your family unit once again, your outlook will change. You’ll start seeing opportunities opening up as you and your spouse or partner have more time on your hands.
Some couples grab the chance to start traveling more. It’s also a good time to rebuild relationships with old friends, after so many years of often being too busy with childrearing.
Sometimes the newfound freedom of empty nesters manifests itself closer to home, though. After years of weekends spent at soccer games, musical recitals, or driving the Mom shuttle to ferry kids back and forth between their engagements, you finally have time to relax.
Maybe that means spending the morning at a cafe reading a novel you’ve always had on your must-read list. Maybe it means having time for extra-long walks with your dog. Maybe it means finally having time to dig deep into a favorite hobby. Sometimes couples discover a passion for eating out or going to local cultural events. Or maybe it’s time to embark upon that huge kitchen renovation project you’ve been dreaming about.
The point is every person has their own way of exploring new ways to enjoy their time. This is your chance to try them all.
Make a Smart Plan
While you’re out traveling, eating out, or discovering hobbies, don’t forget to do a little financial planning, too. Enjoy yourself, but don’t become too intoxicated with all the freedom that you blow too much money. As with any new phase in life, it’s a good idea to sit down and assess your finances, too.
In addition to reassessing your finances, you might also want to reconsider your living arrangements. Once you’re well into enjoying your new, empty nest lifestyle, you may find that your nest is suddenly too big for just the two of you.
Downsizing can bring a wide variety of unexpected benefits. Many couples downsize to glean financial benefits like saving money on a mortgage or lowering their utility bills. Some look for a new home that will save them on maintenance, property taxes, and landscaping, too. Others look for a 55+ community with plenty of social activities.
The process itself can bring satisfaction as you weed out useless items that take up space in your home. Many empty nesters even find that moving to a smaller home helps them start their new chapter with a fresh outlook. They take only their most prized possessions with them, allocating the rest to family members, yard sales, or GoodWill.
There’s a certain sense of freedom that comes with getting rid of stuff you don’t need.
The Common Denominator
However you’re progressing through your empty nest phase of life, know that the common theme running through all of our advice is to have fun. Your life may be radically different now that your kids have moved out, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a good difference!
Want to learn more about navigating the new world of empty nesting and retirement? Read any of these articles from Acts Retirement-Life Communities:
- Finding Purpose in Life After Retirement
- Why Yoga is Perfect for Older Adults
- Eight Tips for Downsizing Your Home