Adjusting to being an empty nester can be difficult for some parents. Take these steps to ease your transition to your new and soon-to-be wonderful life.
For empty nesters, the sudden drop in child-related activities can leave them with many empty days on their calendars. School functions and events take up a lot of time when raising our kids, so finding a way to fill those empty hours is very important. Reach out to friends and family and make plans. Whether it’s a casual dinner out, a night of cards or other games at home, or a visit to a local museum, taking the first step and contacting others to plan events is essential to feeling like you’re still a part of things.
Take a Trip
For the first time in a very long time, you can leave home without having to think about child care. Even when your children are in their teens, leaving them for a weekend away can be questionable at best and a disaster at worst. You might want to start small, with a long weekend away not too far from home, but eventually, you’ll feel comfortable going for longer trips. This is your chance to see places you have always wanted to see. The cost and hassle of taking 4-6 people on a trip as opposed to one or two are vastly different.
Take Care of Yourself
Have you spent the last 18 plus years caring for your children and perhaps neglecting taking care of yourself? Now is your chance to change your habits and focus on you. Start small — take a walk around the block in the evening instead of watching “Jeopardy.” Instead of a big dinner, make a light meal of a simple salad and soup. Take a nap when you can. You’ve been working so hard for so many years to make sure that everyone had what they needed — but what do you need, now that you can shift your attention?
It’s ok to reminisce and feel sad for all the days gone by and how much you loved raising your children — even when they drove you crazy or made you sick with worry. Taking stock of all the things you have done over the course of your children’s lives — every carpool driven, every homework assist, every parent-teacher conference, every dollar spent on lessons, tutoring, camps, clothes, fads, and passions — is a well-earned and well-deserved indulgence. Spending time thinking about all that you have accomplished and all that you have done to help your child grow up is certainly ok during this transition to being a comfortable empty-nester.
Look Forward to Visits
Your grown kids will visit you, and you will visit them. You can look forward to spending time with them without feeling like you have to do their laundry or make their favorite meals if you don’t want to. It’s fun to plan for family events when they are special and few and far between. If you are going to visit your young adults in new places and new homes, be sure that there is plenty of room for you to feel comfortable. If not, a hotel is a good choice.
Rediscover Your Inner Child
If you’re not sure what to do with your freedom from responsibilities to your children, try remembering yourself as a child. What was it that you enjoyed, what did you love to do, what did you get excited about and look forward to? Whether it was playing soccer or coloring with crayons, dressing your dolls or building elaborate roadways for your Hot Wheels, use those carefree days of childhood as a jumping-off point for your next project. You may find that picking up a paintbrush can be as captivating and exciting as it was when you were in 7th grade art class.
Pat Yourself on the Back
The goal of every parent is this: Whether they are sending their child to college, to the military, to work or on some other first adult experience, they want to see their young adults become self-sufficient, independent and able to navigate the world with confidence. If your young adult is managing to do this, even with bumps in the road and blips on the screen, you should give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back. You have done your job — though of course, as all parents know, that job never really ends. You will always be mom or dad.
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