Do you remember life before children? Life before car pools, sports, fundraisers, family dinners, chores, family road trips, and the seemingly endless list of to-dos? Now your children are adults and your house is empty – what do you do? For starters, do not Google empty nester stats because it will send you into a panic attack. Between the surge of divorce rates and the rise of depression, your empty nest will feel like a disaster zone.
With kids no longer living in your home, there are several things you can do to adjust and align the next chapter. Whether you’re single or married, we have the tips and resources for you.
For Single Parents
- Schedule Social Time: Your days of having friends are back. The thing is making friends as an adult is about 9 million times harder than when you were in middle school. But you will be lonely if you don’t take a leap of faith and be social. Be intentional by blocking off social time. This can be attending a community event in your neighborhood, joining a small group within your church, going out to dinner with your co-workers, or even calling that oldie but goodie friend that you always send a Christmas card to.
- Find a Hobby: Your hobby for the last 18 plus years has been raising human beings. Now, it is time to focus on yourself. Is there something you’ve always wanted to do like kickboxing, water aerobics, crocheting, learning to play an instrument, or learning a new language? If so, don’t think about it anymore – just do it! If the budget is tight because you’re sending your kid off to college, check out your local library. There are a ton of free options that libraries and recreation centers offer. Develop a Routine: This might seem odd at first because your routine probably always centered around your children, but it’s not impossible to redevelop your routine. There are a number of studies that prove having a routine can help your mental health and stress management skills. Once you have a routine that caters to you, you’ll feel like a priority.
- Read: I know, who had time for reading when you were raising human beings? Well, now is your time to become a book worm. Reading is an escape, a way to educate yourself, and a nice way to brush up on your skills. Take the time to read a good book.
- Schedule Kid Time: Being an empty nester doesn’t mean you have to completely dismiss your child from your schedule. Organize time, with your child for regular visits and/or phone calls. If your child is living within driving distance, schedule meet-ups for dinner and/or lunch, and create dates within each other’s schedule when you’ll be together for holidays. If your child lives far away, set up weekly Facetime (or Skype) calls, and schedule the blocks of time when your child can come home to visit. Having these on your calendar will serve as a gentle reminder that you are not alone and it will give both individuals something to look forward to.
- Talk to Someone: This is a really big time for you and going home to an empty house can be daunting. Be proactive and talk to someone – this could be a therapist, pastor or small group leader. Talk to someone who is a neutral party. Someone you can be completely open with and not feel like you are being judged. You’ll find having a third party will provide you with additional insight you didn’t originally consider.
- Date Night: Make date night a weekly occasion. Dates do not have to be expensive or excessive. Couples can cook a meal together, watch a movie, take a walk/hike, or take part in a hobby together. Making each other a priority will be a nice break and provide each partner with a sense of belonging.
- Couple Check-Ins: If your household, prior to kids leaving the home, had weekly family meetings, a couple meeting isn’t out of the ordinary. In a family meeting, everyone checks in and keeps the household up to date on upcoming events, monies needed, and other appointments. Even though your children have left, it is still crucial for couples to check in on those same agenda items. The misconception that it is just the two of you can be underwhelming; however, prioritizing each other is a priority and these check-ins will keep things running seamlessly.
- Family Time: Schedule time to still be a family and do activities. Set up vacation times, dinner times, holiday arrangements, and other ways you can still celebrate each other. Just because the house is empty during most of the time doesn’t mean you can’t look forward to spending time together. Having these events on the schedule will also serve as a great morale booster.
- Be Individuals: Odds are, your children dictated most of your free time. Being empty nesters doesn’t mean you have to band together and do everything as a couple. It is important to find yourself again, as an individual. Find a hobby or time that is just for you and book it. This could be a time to play golf, get a pedicure, read, craft, or just enjoy a walk. Remember, you’re an individual and you cannot be your best self if you are constantly bogged down trying to appease everyone.
- Couple’s Therapy: There are so many misconceptions when it comes to therapy. A lot of people assume you must be in complete disarray to benefit from therapy, but that is the furthest from the truth. Seek out a couple’s therapist because this is a great way to approach your next chapter as an empty nesting couple. Having a third party will provide you with additional insight and strengthen your marriage. Remember, being proactive can make the difference.
Empty nests can seem overwhelming and unwelcoming, but there are a few things that you can do to make the transition less daunting. It doesn’t matter if you are a single parent or married couple, there are a number of ways you can transition into an empty nest.