We realize that there isn’t a quick-fix solution for dealing with an empty nest. Watching children venture off to the next stage of life can be an emotionally taxing process that takes time to unravel.
While we aren’t medical professionals, we have special insight on the subject based on decades of helping storage customers through difficult life transitions.
However, if you feel you are struggling with empty nest syndrome and are feeling clinically depressed, be sure to seek advice from your primary care physician or another health care provider. This article is not a substitute for medical treatment or medical advice.
If you are coping with mild feelings of loss, sadness and overwhelm associated with empty nesting, we’re here for moral support and guidance.
These empty nest tips aren’t a one size fits all solution. Read through them and pick out the ones that resonate with you, give them a try, and have an open mind.
1. Make the transition out of the house exciting.
When you find out that your last child is leaving the nest, you might be surprised by the mix of emotions that come up. In fact, you might not even feel sadness or emptiness at first (or at all).
Awareness of your emotions is key to mitigating their impact on your well being. If you are feeling overwhelmed with loss, first acknowledge that and then think about how you want to present those feelings to your family.
For instance, having an honest conversation is usually more productive than picking fights with your children to hide your sadness. Do your best to counter overwhelming emotions with helpful actions.
Regardless of how you feel, consider adjusting your focus temporarily on the task at hand: the move. Try to make this move as exciting as possible. The more you can get lost in this new task, the less overwhelmed you might feel.
The act of celebrating this moment could also remind you of many things that make you feel grateful. Be as involved as you can without overstepping your child’s autonomy.
Here are some ways you can be present during an empty nest transition:
- Ask if your children if they would like help decorating their dorm room or first apartment.
- Make plans to stay close by for the first weekend to celebrate.
- Plan a surprise going away party with close family and friends.
- Make a care package with your child’s favorite things from home.
2. Try new things to reduce stress.
Any form of negative self-judgment might get you caught in a perpetual loop of negativity as you try to deal with an empty nest. Mindfulness is a practical way to manage these feelings before they hit the point of overwhelming you.
Be aware of how you’re feeling and accept whatever emotions come up without judgment. Avoid unnecessary judgment. You can do this by not being hard on yourself. Everyone handles change in their own way and there isn’t a right and wrong here.
If mindfulness doesn’t seem to be helping, take heart that you’re not alone. Thomas G. Plante reminds us in Psychology Today,
“Mindfulness isn’t magic and it doesn’t solve all of the problems of the world or of individuals. It is a helpful tool, one among many, that might help people reduce stress, cope with challenges in life, and better regulate mood.”
So while mindfulness might help, so could other lifestyle changes like prayer, exercise, or volunteer work. Accept where you are right now. Then, work to recognize areas you can add more value to your life that doesn’t directly involve your children.
Here are some ways to reduce ongoing stress:
- Join a weekly exercise class.
- Find a support group to attend.
- Take up a new hobby like knitting.
- Enjoy nature hikes and spend some time outdoors.
- Get involved in your community and consider volunteer work.
Read Also: How to Be a Snowbird on a Budget
3. Don’t rush to clear out the nest.
Some people have a really hard time parting with belongings and hang on to them well past their usefulness. Others get rid of sentimental items so quickly to alleviate the stress in the short term but find themselves regretting this action in the long term.
There is a healthy balance to strike with belongings, and this timeline might look different for everyone. Take your time and don’t feel pressure to clear out belongings based on emotion alone.
If reminders of your child are too painful, close the door for the time being or move items into a storage unit. Remember, it’s normal to expect some mild discomfort when the time comes to process through sentimental items.
Remember the reasons to not clear out belongings right away.
- Your child might have to move back home at some point if things don’t work out as planned. The cost of buying new items could outweigh the practicality of storing the old items.
- It’s unwise to make significant decisions when you’re feeling extra emotional. Wait until you’re able to make rational, well-thought-out decisions on what is worth keeping and what is worth letting go.
- You might get rid of something sentimental that you would later regret. Put these sentimental items in storage for a month or two and then determine the best course of action once you’re clear-headed.
4. Take advantage of new spare spaces.
If you want to move forward in your life, but your home is stuck in the past, the constant reminders of a young family living in your home might make that difficult.
Enjoy transforming the freed-up space in your home for new purposes. Interior design is a creative hobby that allows people to create spaces with a particular feel. Don’t underestimate the potential emotional impact of changing around your living space even if you don’t think of yourself as a creative person.
Explore ways to add a new vibe or feeling to your living spaces.
- Carve out space for new hobbies by making a craft room or exercise room.
- Declutter your bedroom and turn it into a relaxing sanctuary.
- Repaint your main living area a bright, cheerful color.
5. Prepare for a new stage of parenting.
Sometimes we can get so caught up on the things that we’ve lost that we forget about the things that are gained during a life transition. Just because your child moved away from the house doesn’t mean your parenting obligations are suddenly over.
While you may lose some sense of control as your child becomes more independent, they will still need their parents. Some people find that they become closer with their children once they no longer live with them.
Figure out ways to nurture this evolving relationship with your child. This transition doesn’t mean bombarding your children with text messages every night asking them where they are and what they’re doing.
Instead, connecting with your kids might mean inviting them over for Sunday dinner if they are close enough. You could also make an effort to ask them about challenges they are facing with school, finances or work. Create new traditions that make sense for your family as it evolves.
We hope this article helped you deal with an empty nest by steering you out of an emotional funk and into a more balanced, accepting place. Remember, emotions show us what we care about, so it’s natural to feel more emotional when someone we love moves away. Honor that emotion and then explore helpful ways to make coping more effective. Good luck!