While empty nest syndrome affects everyone in different ways, for most people it can be a time of profound sadness. A time to mourn the loss of our “babies” who are getting ready to fly the coop, go off to college, military or in search of their own independence. Psychology Today refers to Empty Nest Syndrome as “feelings of depression, sadness, and/or grief experienced by parents and caregivers after children come of age and leave their childhood homes.”
However, most experts believe in the age of “boomerang kids” (kids returning home after college) and many more mothers in the workforce, the empty nest syndrome is not as intense as once thought. Work can serve as a distraction, and with many kids struggling to deal with high student loans after college, they find returning home is a great way to save before launching.
Wherever you are on the empty nest spectrum, here are 5 things to help you prepare for this transition:
1. Reconnect with old friends: Raising kids can take up most of our free time and often cause us to lose track of old friends. As our children become teenagers and have some independence (driving, etc.), we could begin carving out some time to meet with friends even if it is once a quarter. Check out that new restaurant you have always wanted to try or check out your second run favorite movie.
2. Hobby rules: Consider taking up a hobby while your children are still at home — join a book club, consider painting or gardening.
3. Volunteer: There are so many organizations looking for mentors and other volunteers for fundraising and other activities. Find a cause you care deeply (for e.g., education or environment) and get involved. This is also a great way to make new friends.
4. Learn a new language: If learning a new language has always been a dream of yours, this is a great time to do it. Not to mention, it could keep your mind active and ward off Alzheimers. According to a neuroscientist from the University of Kentucky, Brian Gold, speaking more than one language could ward off Alzheimers.
5. Hit the Road (or the air): With so many beautiful places to discover inside and outside of the US, you could take up traveling when your teens are off to a summer camp. This could help you get used to traveling without kids.
Yes, the transition to an empty nest can be tough. But, no, it doesn’t last forever.