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Coping with an Empty Nest

By: Helen Legato, Parent 24'

If you’re like many parents, you’ve been wondering for years what your life would look like without any children in the house. No carpools to drive. No games, events, or practices to attend. No dirty dishes piled up in the sink.  

But before you know it, the day is here. Suddenly there aren’t any children at home who need your care. You miss their constant companionship and being a part of their daily life. You may even worry about their safety and whether they’ll be able to take care of themselves. And these feelings may be exacerbated right now since your student was home with you since the pandemic began last March. 

Although it may not feel like it at the moment, there are many benefits to having an empty nest. Follow this link for a few tips to help cope with the feelings of loss and to establish a “new normal.” 

Redefine Your Role 

Although your job as parent might not be at the forefront anymore, you now have more time to explore other activities to give you a sense of meaning and purpose. Do you want to be a volunteer? A generous neighbor? An involved community member? Clarifying the roles you would like to fill now that you’re an empty nester can help you feel needed. 

Reconnect With Your Partner 

Many parents struggle with empty nest syndrome because they feel they've lost touch with their partner over the years – and now all of a sudden, it's just the two of you. Plan date nights. Travel when it’s not a school vacation and without worrying about who’s going to stay with the kids. Cook whatever you like without wondering if a picky eater will eat it. If your social life centered around going to kids’ events, it may take some effort to figure out what other activities you enjoy together. But rest assured, the extra planning will pay off. 

Reconnect With Yourself 

Do you remember those hobbies you gave up when parenting took over your life? An empty nest means that you now have the time to return to a hobby that you pushed aside when you became a parent. Whether you’ve dreamed of writing a book, running a road race, or redesigning a room in your home, now might be a great time to find a new personal or professional challenge to tackle. Signing up for clubs or classes is a great way of meeting other adults. And with a little imagination, you can still have fun while your child is away. 

Set a Schedule to Communicate With Your Child  

Coping with empty nest syndrome means letting go and helping your child grow into an independent adult. Of course, you should certainly check in on your child’s physical and mental well-being but resist the urge to check in too much. Give them some privacy and the space to make a few mistakes. It’s healthier for both of you. Constantly texting or calling children can feel like you’re micromanaging them – and no one likes that feeling. It also sends the message that you don’t trust their judgment. Setting a schedule will help you stay connected. Have faith knowing that your child will get in touch, not just when he or she needs money, but when they need your support. Remember that you raised them to be competent decision-makers.  

Seek Support 

Change is difficult – and that’s ok. If you’re still struggling to find the silver lining in your situation, don’t hesitate to seek support from friends, family, or a mental health professional if you need it. Schedule virtual coffee dates, host Zoom dinner parties, and make it a point to strengthen the relationships that you treasure to fill the void of your child being away from home. It may give you comfort to connect with people who are in the same stage of life as you. And just think, as soon as you settle into your new “normal” as an empty nester, your student will be home for the summer!