Parenting Woes: How to Cope with Empty Nest Syndrome

family portraitAmong the biggest life changes you’ll experience when you hit your 50s is breaking away from your parent role. You've spent most of your life taking care of your children, preparing their breakfast, driving them to school, dealing with their puppy love dilemma, and now, all of that is gone.

They’re off to college. They’re moving in with their fiancé. You’re left with an "empty nest," dealing with the painful grief and longing. How do you deal with this?

Find fulfillment in other life roles

Yes, you’ve been a nurturer and provider for the kids, but that’s just your primary role. You have other "shoes" to fill in. You’re a sister or a brother. You’re someone’s aunt or uncle. You’re another person’s boss or employee. Now that the parent role has taken the backseat, you can rediscover these identities and pour your energy in them.

This is also the perfect time to explore other roles. Perhaps you can be an advocate for a noble cause in your locale. Volunteer in the tree planting activity of an environmental organization. Organize activities to increase breast cancer awareness.

Direct your parental instincts to other kids who would need much love and support. There are plenty of roles to fill in. You’re never "just" a parent. Find purpose in other responsibilities.

Reconnect with your spouse

old couple dancingOne role you can find fulfillment in is in being a wife or a husband. Before you were your children’s parent, you're someone’s partner. And in the past years that you’ve gone so preoccupied with raising kids, your relationship with your spouse may have been second priority.

Now is the time to rekindle that union and intimacy with your partner. Go on date nights again. Re-discover the hobbies you liked doing together before you were parents. Travel together. There’s no curfew this time, or worrying about whether the babysitter has fed or put the kids to bed right on time.

Maybe you can also talk to your spouse about downsizing. If the empty rooms and the quiet hallways have become so cold to you, consider moving to a tinier home. Perhaps in a peaceful, slow-paced community you’ve been wanting to live in all your life. Hire a full-service long-distance moving company to avoid the hassle (and physical pains) of packing and relocating your things.

Avoid daily check-ins

This is where most empty nesters fail. They constantly monitor their kids’ activities, texting them where they’re at, who they’re with, or which college professor they’re crushing on. If you have this habit, it will really be difficult to move on with life and accept your empty nest reality. You’re just going to long for your kids all the more.

Yes, it’s hard to resist the daily check-ins, but try to. You’ve been in their care for years, and you’ve taught them the life skills they need. They’re going to do just fine.

So, let them go. Give them the space they need to grow and make mistakes. Let them live their life. Let yourself live yours, as well. 

It’s hard to deal with the reality of being "less" of a parent when you’ve been it for all your life. It’s okay to grieve. But also know when to move forward and welcome this new phase with optimism.

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