Empty Nesters: Now what?

As I reflect on a recent relocation for work and what this move may entail for myself, my thoughts cannot help but stray back home to my parents as their house became an “empty nest.” Because let’s be honest, I wouldn’t be here without them. When the last child (or only child) moves out of their parents’ house, the parents are commonly referred to as ‘empty nesters.’ While some fear it, others welcome this with open arms. While an ‘empty nest’ triggered by any form of move or transition can be the result of an exciting event, such as a new job, a marriage, or schooling, this transition can also be hard (especially if the move is deemed far in distance, long in time, or even dangerous).

Research suggests that becoming ‘empty nesters’ is more difficult, or emotionally taxing, when the parent and child have a close bond. But wait, isn’t a close bond between a parent and a child supposed to be beneficial? In general, yes. And depending on the circumstances, being emotional about your child leaving is not a bad thing at all, believe it or not. It shows you care and that they are loved, perhaps it even shows you are proud, that you will miss them and that they will ‘always be your baby’ (as my mother always says). So how do we cope with such a transition? How do we get through the hard times when a child leaves the home, especially if you and the child are close? Here are some tips and tricks from howstuffworks.com that are worth trying:

  • Give yourself time. Don’t rush into panic, but instead, give yourself time to figure out how you really feel about becoming an ‘empty nester.’
  • Get moving. Get your body moving in any way that makes you happy. Take a walk with a family member, a neighbor, or a friend. Or try something new, like swimming or hiking. Focusing on you and putting your body to use may help you relax later when you are at home in your ‘empty nest.’
  • Start reconnecting. Haven’t seen an old friend lately? When’s the last time you and your partner went on a date? This is the time to start reconnecting in relationships you once had and now realize you miss, or those you now have time to put more effort into.
  • Do something for YOU. Maybe you never finished that book series, or went to see your favorite play. Maybe you never picked up on painting those model cars you see in the window of your favorite shop downtown. Do something that you said you’d “do when you have the time.”
  • Talk to your child. Find what works best for both you and your child to keep up with what’s going on. Maybe that’s a Sunday afternoon FaceTime chat, or a Wednesday night pick me up. No matter when it is, always set up time to talk!

You might be an empty nester now, but as long as you keep that close bond that you previously built at home with your child, then they’ll “always be your baby.”

References

Edmonds, M. (2009, March 4). 5 tips for adjusting to an empty nest. Retrieved from <https://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/aging/empty-nest/5-empty-nest-adjusting-tips.htm> 5 February 2018

Mitchell, B. A., & Wister, A. V. (2015). Midlife challenge or welcome departure? Cultural and family-related expectations of empty nest transitions. The International Journal of Aging and Human Development81(4), 260-280.

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