How to cope with empty nest syndrome and be happy again

Amy Morin, LCSW, is the Editor-in-Chief of Verywell Mind. She’s also a psychotherapist, international bestselling author and host of the The Verywell Mind Podcast.

Carly Snyder, MD is a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist who combines traditional psychiatry with integrative medicine-based treatments.

When much of your life has been defined as a parent, it’s hard to adjust to life without kids in the home. Parents who have a particularly difficult transition experience what’s known as “empty nest syndrome.”

Empty nest syndrome refers to the feelings of sadness and loss some parents experience when the last child leaves the family home. Although it isn’t an official clinical diagnosis, the problem is still very real.  

Parents with empty nest syndrome experience a deep void in their lives. They often feel lost. They may also struggle to allow their adult children to have autonomy. Some couples experience higher levels of conflict when one or both partners have empty nest syndrome. This can compound feelings of loneliness and distress.

Fortunately, there are some things you can do to address empty nest syndrome. If you’re struggling to deal with your children moving out of the home, these five strategies can help.

Identify Your Roles

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You’ve been a lot of things in your life—daughter or son, friend, employee, maybe aunt or uncle—but none may feel as important as the role of parent. Rest assured that you can still carry that label proudly; it just might not be at the forefront anymore.

Identify new roles you want to fill during this empty-nest phase of your life. Do you want to be a volunteer? A generous neighbor? An involved community member?

Now that you have more time on your hands, you have the opportunity to explore other activities that can give you meaning and purpose. Clarifying the roles you’d like to fill now that you’re an empty nester can ensure you feel valuable.

Reconnect With Your Partner

You might be totally focused on how your life is going to change after your child leaves, and in your mind, that might not be for the better. Remember those years before you had kids, though, when it was just the two of you? It’s time to make more memories as a twosome.

Travel without worrying about who’s going to stay with the kids. Plan date nights without thinking about a babysitter and cook whatever meals you want without considering if a picky eater is going to complain about it.

If many of your activities centered around going to kids’ sporting events and school plays, it may take some effort to figure out what other activities you can enjoy together. But the extra planning will pay off.

Reconnect With Yourself

Did you have any hobbies that you gave up as parenting took over your life? An empty nest means that you have time to get back in touch with that side of you. With your kids’ stuff gone, there is now more space in your home to store the supplies you need to immerse yourself activities you love.

Perhaps you’d like to return to a hobby that you pushed aside when you became a parent. Or maybe there’s something you always wanted to try but you never had time. If you aren’t sure what you’d like to do, pick something and give it a try by taking a class or testing out a short-term project. If you find out it’s not for you, try something else. This is a great time to explore your interests.

Find New Challenges

Ease the sense of loss that you might feel about your child growing up by finding a new personal or professional challenge to tackle. Whether you’ve dreamed of running a road race or you always wanted to redesign a room in your home, now might be the best time to dive in.

You might even take on something even bigger, such as volunteering with a charity, which can help you find a place to direct your focus. However, avoid making any life-altering decisions in the first six months or so after your child moves out. Don’t sell your house or leave your job unless you’d had that planned far in advance.

The emotional roller coaster associated with empty nest syndrome can cloud your judgment. Making a big change while when you’re feeling emotional might prevent you from making your best decision.

Resist the Urge to Check In Too Much

If you obsessively monitor your child’s social media accounts, call every morning, and spend every minute worrying about how your child is doing in college or in their new place, you won’t be able to move on with your life. Coping with empty nest syndrome means letting go and letting your child grow into an independent adult.

Of course, you should certainly check in on your child’s well-being. But give your child some privacy—and the space to make a few mistakes. It’s healthier for both of you.

A Word From Verywell

No matter what you do to shift your focus from your empty nest, it won’t change initial feelings of sadness. You need to grieve what you’ve lost. One phase of your life is over. Your children are no longer living at home and time has likely passed by faster than you ever imagined.

Coming to terms with this new phase in your life can be tough. But most parents find they’re able to adjust to their new roles and they develop a new sense of normal.   If you find that empty nest syndrome is getting worse, instead of better, or it doesn’t resolve within a couple of months, talk to a mental health professional. Your feelings of loneliness or emptiness may require treatment.

How to cope with empty nest syndrome and be happy again

Most people never think about it or realize it, but there are some stark similarities between the transition that parents make when their children leave home and when people leave the workplace for the last time.

Empty nest syndrome is defined as a transition period in which some parents experience feelings of loss, sadness, and, or grief after children grow up and head off to college, the military, or get married. It often occurs despite the fact that many parents encourage their children to become independent adults.

Ironically, new retirees can fall into an eerily similar situation. They experience a sense of loss of purpose, feelings of worry, stress, and anxiety in the process of leaving work, despite planning for years to do so.

How will you react to your kids leaving home and/or leaving work? (Photo Credit: Shutterstock)

Empty nest syndrome is most often attributed to stay-at-home mothers or those with more traditional views of family life because they lack an immediate outlet for their time once the children are gone and they have more time to fixate on their loss, although some mothers with a career also feel the impact of the loss of active parenting. But dads are impacted too, despite the fact that it doesn’t get talked about as much.

When it comes to retirement, career oriented men tend to struggle more with the transition from work life to home life because so much of their identity is tied to their position, company title, and ability to get results in the workplace. However, times have changed, and women aren’t immune to the struggle associated with the transition into retirement either, although they may approach it differently than men.

In some cases, an individual or couple may end up dealing with both empty nest syndrome and retirement at around the same time. Furthermore, some couples may have one partner grieving the loss of a child while the other grieves the loss of work.

One of the issues at hand is that both empty nest syndrome and retirement often have a deep-seated stereotype that pervades the way people perceive the results associated with them. Whether it’s launching your children into the real world or walking off into the sunset of retirement, they are supposed to be good things… life-long achievements that you’re supposed to be proud of and even boastful about.

But it’s not that easy because of the tug of war, or duality of emotions that may take place. Yes, you’re excited to have your kids move forward in life and experience new things, but you may also be experiencing emotions like grief, loneliness, and anxiety. Similarly, retirees are excited to skip those boring staff meetings or no longer perform certain tasks, but they can also miss some of the office camaraderie, a set schedule, and the ability to set and achieve goals.

In either case, the grief that a parent or new retiree can go through sometimes goes unrecognized or can be referred to as “disenfranchised grief.” This is a type of grief where the loss they are struggling with isn’t honored in the same way that more traditional grieving situations are. For example, the loss of a loved one or divorce. (See Grief In Retirement)

The reality is that any major life change requires some adjustment, and it’s perfectly normal to miss a child or work. Thankfully, many of the same things that can help parents deal with an empty nest can also be applied to retirement.

More and more colleges are offering informational classes and programs to help parents make the adjustment, and support groups are popping up to help parents adjust to the change as well. Additionally, an entire industry of Retirement Transition Coaching has emerged with experts, workshops, and one-on-one sessions to help people cope. (Search: Retirement Coaches Association)

Dr. Dorian Mintzer, a noted therapist and retirement coach works with both struggling parents and retirees. She advises, “Think about the loss of active parenting and retirement as transitions that have an ending, a period of “unknowns” and new beginnings. It’s helpful to acknowledge the ending and changes—in identity and community, while also embracing the opportunity for new beginnings.”

She adds, “Take time to explore new possibilities such as returning to existing hobbies or developing new ones, develop new connections with people with similar interests, and perhaps pursue new leisure activities, volunteer work or an encore career.”

Overall, the struggle that both parents and retirees can face is very real and fortunately there are things that can help both combat some of the symptoms they may experience during this time including:

  • Schedule communication with your child or former co-workers
  • Follow a passion
  • Build new friendships or revive old ones
  • Take up a new hobby or interest
  • Go back to school or university
  • Embark on an encore career or start a business
  • Volunteer or seek out ways to help with your favorite charity

In any event, consider this a time of renewal and rejuvenation, giving thanks to how you got here and what’s still to come.

If you’re a parent, and one or more of your children have recently left the house for the first time, you may be feeling a bit lost, disoriented, and unsure about what to do with your life.

Now that your children are independent and living without you, what should you do?

In this article, we’ll explore the details about “Empty Nest Syndrome,” including what it is, why it happens, signs that you may be suffering from this issue, and our tips for overcoming it.

What Is Empty Nest Syndrome? Why Does It Happen?

Empty nest syndrome is a feeling of helplessness, confusion, grief and loneliness which parents often suffer from when their children leave the house for the first time. While it is not a clinical condition, it can have serious effects on your mental health, happiness, and lifestyle.

Children leaving the house is a natural event, of course – and part of life. But this doesn’t mean that it’s any easier for parents to deal with. Full-time parents, such as stay-at-home moms and dads, are particularly vulnerable to empty nest syndrome, because they are very close to their children – and have spent so much of their lives caring for them, meeting their needs, and helping them with their day-to-day tasks.

Empty nest syndrome happens because your priorities have to shift once again, after your children have left the house. When your children were born, your #1 priority became their care, upbringing, and personal well-being. Your needs were set aside – and you likely focused on your kids, above all else.

But now, once your children have left the house, that sense of purpose may disappear – leaving you feeling lost, and like your life no longer has a “goal” or “objective.” This makes sense, of course. After dedicating nearly two decades to the care of a child, it can be hard to re-adjust, and go back to a day-to-day, child-free lifestyle.

Signs You May Have Empty Nest Syndrome

Any parent can suffer from empty nest syndrome. Not sure if it’s affecting you? Here are a few of the most common signs that you may be suffering from empty nest syndrome.

  • Depression – While the depression from empty nest syndrome is not nearly as serious as clinical depression, it can still affect your day-to-day life, causing you to lack motivation, feel lethargic, lose your appetite and more.
  • Loss of a sense of purpose – If you feel “lost” and like you no longer have a purpose in the home, you may be suffering from empty nest syndrome.
  • Feelings of rejection – Feelings of sadness and rejection are common among those whose children have chosen to leave home, even though this is a normal part of life.
  • Stress and worry about your child – If you find yourself obsessing about how your child is doing, their choices, and their lifestyle, you may be suffering from empty nest syndrome.
  • Anxiety about your child’s’ welfare – Parents suffering from this issue often are anxious about their child. Did we prepare them for life? Will they succeed in their career? Have we given them the moral basis they need to make good choices? Some anxiety is natural, of course, but obsessive anxiety about your child’s welfare and life is not normal.
  • Feeling distressed or easily aggravated – If you find yourself snapping at others, feeling aggravated by normal situations, and otherwise in a poor mood, this is a common sign of empty nest syndrome.
  • Not knowing what to do with your time – Whereas your schedule was filled with tasks for your children – for years – now, you lack things to do. You sit around during the evenings and on weekends, wondering what you can do with all of this extra time.

Our Top Tips For Overcoming Empty Nest Syndrome, And Adjusting To Your New Life

If you recognized one – or all – of the above symptoms, you may be suffering from empty nest syndrome. But there’s good news. This issue is usually fleeting, and you can overcome it and adjust to your new life with a few simple tips.

  • Keep in contact with your kids – Thanks to texting, Skype, phone calls, Facebook and more, it’s easy to keep in touch with your kids in a non-obtrusive way. Doing so can help alleviate feelings of stress, anxiety, and worries about how their life is going.
  • Pursue your own hobbies and interests – Restore that classic car that’s been in your garage for a decade. Get back into knitting. Start working out more – find a hobby or interest that can occupy your time, and provide you with pleasure and a sense of satisfaction.
  • Be open, and discuss your grief – Talk with your spouse, friends, colleagues, or even a professional therapist about your grief, how you feel, and your mental state. Sharing your grief in the appropriate setting can help you move on, and feel better about being an “empty nest.”
  • Keep a journal – Journaling is a powerful way to release negative thoughts and feelings, and track the improvement of your mental state after becoming an empty-nest.
  • Consider going back to work – If you were a full-time parent, consider going back to work. Find a job you’re passionate about, and you’ll be able to occupy your time effectively, and bring in some extra income.
  • Rekindle your relationship – Studies have shown that, on average, couples with children can spend only about one-third of the time alone together, compared to before they had kids. After your kids have left the house, you have the ability to focus on your relationship – and strengthen it during your “Golden Years.”

Know How To Recognize And Deal With “Empty Nest” Syndrome

Hopefully, this guide has provided you with the tools you need to overcome the departure of your children from your house – and will be useful as you enter the next stage of your life. Empty nester syndrome is a natural part of raising a kid, and with the right techniques, it’s easy to rid yourself of the grief, negative feelings, and loss of purpose associated with this condition.

How to cope with empty nest syndrome and be happy again

At a certain point in our lives, we realize that our children are growing up and have decided to take a new path of independence. While this is a part of life, parents often feel abandoned and sad. Empty nest syndrome refers to this situation. It’s a feeling of loneliness generated by the departure of one or more children from the home. This situation causes parents to stop feeling important for their children and instead feel irritable and anxious. Here we present how to cope with empty nest syndrome.

A new perspective of the situation. You should think about those things that contribute to your well-being. The relationship between parents and children often improves when they are no longer at home. Another aspect is the time with which you now have to devote to new projects.

Strengthen the relationship with your partner. When we have children your partner is often left aside. This is the time to strengthen your relationship with your partner and do those activities that had been put on hold. This is a new stage in your life that should be enjoyed to the full.

How to cope with empty nest syndrome and be happy again

Talk about it. Putting your feelings into words is the first step forward. Sometimes sharing our feelings with loved ones makes us realize that we can overcome a situation.

How to cope with empty nest syndrome and be happy again

Pleasurable activities. Throughout life people always feel the desire to perform activities that generate pleasure but daily duties sometimes mean they are neglected. Make a list of all the activities that you like and start doing them.

How to cope with empty nest syndrome and be happy again

Do sport. Physical exercise is very good for your health and helps you to relax. Take a walk every day for 30 minutes and you’ll see that, little by little, you will start feeling better and better.

How to cope with empty nest syndrome and be happy again

Personal care. Do not give up or fall into despair. You should look after yourself now that you have time to do so. It is important to start being a woman again, as well as a mother.

How to cope with empty nest syndrome and be happy again

Encourage independence. It is important that your children know that you support them in their new project. Avoid invading their new home or life with continuous visits or calls. You should let them grow. Accompany them and enjoy this new stage of their life.

Adopt a pet. If you do not have a partner with whom to share this moment and feel that the house is empty without your children, you can adopt a pet. They make great company.

How to cope with empty nest syndrome and be happy again

Fortify your relationship with your child. As time passes, the relationship with your child will change positively. Maturity on both sides encourages better communication. Never stop being a mother and your children will be there for you.

How to cope with empty nest syndrome and be happy again

This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to How To Cope With Empty Nest Syndrome, we recommend you visit our Mental health category.

How to cope so life feels full again.

Posted Aug 18, 2019

How to cope with empty nest syndrome and be happy again

You raised your child to be independent, but still, it can feel like such a loss when your child moves out on their own. Empty nest syndrome is a very real feeling of grief and loss, including feelings of loneliness and a shifting of your sense of purpose. It most frequently happens when your children go off to college or start to live independently.

The feeling of loss you experience can be similar to the grief you feel when there is a death in the family. A loss is a loss, even if it is tied to positive reasons. You may feel anxiety, depression, anger, relief, and denial. You are learning a new way to interact with your child, your partner, and most importantly, yourself.

At first, you may enjoy the new quiet of your home, but you also feel a sense of loss. Your children who are you raised them to be – independent, happy adults – so you may be wondering why you are feeling a sense of grief. Your schedule has now changed, and your role as a parent has changed. It can be a big hurdle to adapt to your new role – or to even discover what exactly is that new role.

Also, if you and your partner have focused on your children and not so much on your relationship, when your child leaves, it is a time to get to know your partner again. This can cause feelings of awkwardness, and may also help you realize that you and your partner were focusing on the kids as a way to avoid some issues in your relationship. These issues are harder to avoid when it is just the two of you in the house!

You may feel like you and your partner have become strangers. To get to know each other as a couple again, talk about some activities or adventures that you may have put on hold while the kids were at home. Consider talking with a couples therapist to help transition into your new roles in your relationship.

Helping your children prepare to leave the nest can make you feel more comfortable that they are heading off to a successful and happy new life. You can prepare yourself by reading up on empty nest syndrome and talking with other parents who have experienced it. Begin getting involved in activities that you can pick up fully when your child moves out. This will help you with the transition – you have an activity that will be consistent throughout that time.

Keep in mind that even with preparing, you may still feel a sense of loss, and that is completely normal. If you are unable to help your child prepare, that is totally okay.

It’s important to acknowledge that your role in your child’s life is changing. You will always be mom or dad, but your child may need you in a different way now. It is completely normal to feel that your purpose in your child’s life has completely changed. Your child still needs you, just in a different way.

You may find that you have more unscheduled or unstructured time on your hands – this is a time to discover activities and do things that you may not have had the time or energy to do before. You may be stretching more of your social muscles – which may feel uncomfortable or liberating.

Your child may also let you know if she needs more of your involvement in her new life or less involvement. Keep in mind that if your child wants less involvement, this is not personal – she is getting used to being more independent. She is who you raised her to be.

You may find that you and your partner or co-parent are coping differently with your child moving away. One half of a couple may find comfort in talking about their feelings, while the other half finds comfort in keeping busy with work or other activities. Sometimes this can lead to one partner saying to the other, “Why are you so emotional?” or “Why are you stuffing things down instead of talking about them?”

The truth is, we deal with loss in different ways. Add to this that relationships with children can be complicated. One parent may have had a closer emotional bond with a child, and the loss hits them harder, while the other parent may feel a sense of relief.

If you are a single parent, you may have a very strong bond with your child – and this can cause a deeper sense of loss when your child leaves the nest. You may also feel a sense of relief and pride that your child has become independent – and you may feel some guilt about feeling relief. It is totally normal to feel relieved that your child is now living on their own.

If you have raised your child as a couple, there may be conflicts over how each of you is processing or handling your child leaving home. You may also have a period of getting to know each other again. In some cases, when couples have more time to focus on their relationship, it becomes stronger – in some cases, they realize that their relationship has run its course and it is in their best interest to separate. Talking with a mental health professional can be very helpful in sorting out your feelings.

Anxiety is very common when you are experiencing empty nest syndrome. The root of empty nest syndrome is grief. You have experienced a loss, even if it is due to positive reasons, such as your child becoming independent. The feelings you will experience are very similar to when there is a death in the family. You may feel denial, anxiety, anger, and depression – sometimes all at once. Eventually, you adapt to your “new normal,” and discover activities and a new definition of your role that works for you.

Self-care is essential right now. Take time to take care of you. Explore new activities – things you may have put on hold while your kids were at home. Also, accept that a feeling of loss is normal when your kids leave home. There has been a change in your parental role. Your kids will always need you, just in a different way than they needed you before. Sometimes it just takes time to find your “new normal.” Have a structured schedule – schedule out every hour of your day, including scheduling in free time.

Talk to a mental health professional If you are feeling teary more days than not, if you feel you’ve lost your life’s purpose, if your sleep patterns change (too much sleep or too little), your eating patterns change (experiencing a sudden weight gain or weight loss), if you are withdrawing from people and activities you used to enjoy, or if you are having difficulty keeping up with your activities of daily living (like showering and brushing your teeth).

Call emergency services or your crisis center if you are having feelings of harming or killing yourself. Utilize the National Suicide Lifeline at suicidepreventionlifeline.org or suicidepreventionlifeline.org/help-yourself/en-espanol/ or call 1-800-273-8255.

Know that your children are becoming who you raised them to be – independent adults. The side effect of that is adjusting to them living away from you – in some cases, thousands of miles away. But you have accomplished one of the greatest feats of parenting – giving your children wings to fly.

Filling the psychological void when your last child leaves home

Posted Aug 14, 2013

Every August, high school graduates leave for college and start a new and exciting chapter in their lives. But they are not the only ones facing a new beginning. Parents left with an empty nest must also start a new chapter in their lives. Managing this transition correctly will determine if it is one characterized by excitement for them too, or one filled with a prevailing feeling of loss.

Our identities are defined by the various roles we play in life. The larger and more meaningful a role is, the more significant aspect of our identity it becomes. Arguably, there are few, if any roles more important, more time-consuming, or more meaningful than parenting. Therefore, being a parent is a large part of our identities. It defines who we are and what we do. So when our last child leaves home, it isn’t just the nest that can feel empty. Indeed, parents often struggle with a profound sense of loss, not just because they miss their child, but because their very identities have been significantly impacted.

Why We Need to Redefine Ourselves

Empty nest is not the only loss that involves challenges to our sense of identity. Losing our health, getting divorced, and even retiring are all examples of losses that create psychological injuries of a similar nature, as they each involve losing a hugely important role in our lives. In order to ‘treat’ these wounds we must first come to terms with how our identities were impacted by the loss and the various ways our lives were changed by them.

Psychologically speaking, we cannot just adjust to such losses by getting used to them. Rather, it is always essential to replace meaningful aspects of our lives in one way or the other when we lose them, even if the loss itself is normative—such as when dealing with an empty nest. We therefore need to identify possible new roles and interests to explore and we must consider existing ones we might be able to expand.

Strategies for Overcoming Empty Nest Syndrome

Ideally, we should not wait until our child leaves home to begin our own adjustment process, as the sooner we take action to address our upcoming needs, the better off we will be emotionally. Indeed, Dr. Susan Newman, a fellow blogger on this site, advocates we start such preparation when our children are still young (read more here), as doing so gradually over the years will make the departure easier both for them and for us.

However, for those who have not planned ahead and need to ‘cram’, here are some basic strategies to consider:

1. Make a list of the roles you have in life. Include roles that require a regular investment of time and energy such as Wife or Husband, Sister or Brother, Daughter or Son, Friend, Neighbor (if you belong to any building, neighborhood, or community associations or boards), Sports Team Member, Pet Owner, your Profession, Business Owner or Employee, and any other roles you can think of.

2. Go through your list and indicate which of those roles you might be able to expand. For example, if you have a spouse or partner, you could reinvest in the relationship, find new mutual interests, and rekindle your romance. If you do not have a partner, you can consider reentering the dating world. You could also refocus on your career or become more active in any community involvements you have.

3. Create a list of new interests you would like to explore. Look for meet-ups in your area (meetup.com) as a place to connect with others who share similar interest, or start a meet-up yourself. If you have trouble brainstorming, don’t worry. Years of parenting can make one feel a little ‘rusty’ as far as extracurricular activities go. Try thinking back to interests you had before you had children and consider exploring those to start.

4. It is best to get involved before your child leaves home but if it is too late to do so, try to get things on your calendar as soon as you can. Be aware that it’s natural to experience feelings of loss so don’t expect to feel ‘excited’ per se at first. However, getting involved in new activities and interests will help accelerate your emotional adjustment and it will also mitigate some of the emptiness you feel, both within your home and within yourself.

According to GoodTherapy.org, empty nesters may experience insomnia, anxiety and/or panic—as well as feelings of extreme grief, isolation/loneliness, guilt and purposelessness. They may even lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. Psychology Today notes that “…parents often struggle with a profound sense of loss, not just because they miss their child, but because their very identities have been significantly impacted.” In other words, if your parenting role has changed so dramatically, who are you?

In two-parent families, empty nest syndrome is at least a team experience—one partner can offer support and empathy when the other is struggling. For divorced, widowed or single parents, however, there may unfortunately be an even greater sense of isolation and loneliness.

If you are struggling with empty nest syndrome, the good news is you are not alone. Most parents experience at least some of these feelings in varying degrees. Here are five suggestions for coping with empty nest syndrome and finding your groove again.

1. Participate in Activities That Include Others.

Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, we all need friends. If you’re already involved in a community group, don’t stop now! If you’ve been too busy, go ahead and sign up for those art classes, start a band, look into university extension programs, or join a new class at the gym. The excitement and energy of taking up a new hobby or learning something new is a real balm for feelings of loss, and being around other people can help stave off social isolation.

2. Find New Ways to Feel Valued and Needed.

One of the rewards of parenting is the feeling of being important to another person. While nothing will ever replace the love between a parent and child, you can find some fulfillment in helping others. Look for a volunteer organization that aligns with your values and sign up! Offer to read books at a nearby school, or hold babies in the NICU at your local hospital. Sign up to work at a local food bank or community garden. Or use your skills to help others—knit blankets for hospital patients, teach home repair skills… the possibilities are as endless as your imagination.

3. Embrace a New Adventure.

If your time and budget allow it, why not enjoy all that traveling you put off during the busy parenting years? Some empty nesters even decide to sell their homes and travel full-time! While that might not be the right choice for you, having a trip to plan and look forward to (and then enjoy) can be very therapeutic.

4. Embark On an Encore Career.

If you’ve reached retirement age, becoming an empty nester might inspire you to re-enter the working world. Encore careers can take on many forms — a coaching or consultative role in your former industry, professionalizing one of your skills (such as giving art lessons), or even joining the staff at a nonprofit. These “second-act” jobs can be a great way to recharge your spirits, stay engaged and extend your retirement income.

5. Discover the Benefits of Homesharing.

Sometimes an empty nest means you’ve got unused space in your home. Homesharing offers a wonderful way to put that space to work and have some company around the house. In homesharing, your renter (or “housemate” pays rent or does household chores (or a combination of the two) in exchange for living space.

Some homeowners find housemates by asking around among friends and neighbors, or by advertising in the community, online or on social media. Silvernest uses unique roommate-matching technology and other tools to make homesharing simple and worry-free. We’ve helped build happy homesharing agreements between people of similar ages or across generations.

Those “empty nest” feelings are normal and natural. While you’ll always miss having your kids around, the most intense emotions usually ease with time. However, if you find yourself too depressed or anxious to fully participate in your life as you once did, please seek out professional support. A trained therapist or, if need be, psychiatrist can help you work your way through this transition to a brighter future.

After dedicating what feels like your entire life to caring for your kids, they’re finally setting out on their own. You’re a newly-minted empty nester.

Your everyday has revolved around their care for so long, you can’t even remember what life before kids looked like. And now that they’ve flown the nest, you’re left feeling lonely and directionless.

So what do you do when you suddenly become an empty nester, still loved but no longer needed by your adult children? How do you fill the lonely void?

Personal Perspectives

For many, the worst part about becoming an empty nester is the loss of purpose. And that can feeling can throw even the most level-headed of us into a panic – or worse, an existential crisis.

First things first, remember that you’re not alone, that you’re not crazy for feeling lost, and that there are always others who understand your struggle. Here are some examples of how other parents have felt as newly-minted empty nesters.

“You’re given a task. Keep track of these people. So, you do this task diligently. For years. It becomes your life, even though you’re told to not let it become your life. One day, you’re told: don’t do that anymore.”

“My kids have moved out. Really no friends and no dates to speak of. I’m totally alone and I’m over it!”

“I am having trouble coping with my emotions, as I transition with my boy leaving for college, and a hard life left for me at home.”

“I now realize I may have needed her as much as she needed me.”

“I realize that I need to build myself a life apart from my kids”

“It’s a weird feeling.”

Hopefully these perspectives bring light to what you’re going through, and let you know that there’s no shame in feeling lonely and lost after your kids leave home. You’re going through something both common and temporary.

That said, how can you adjust to not being needed? How can you invest in yourself and feel happy as an empty nester?

How To Cope With Empty Nest Syndrome

Go to the Gym

You spent the past two decades making sure your kids were healthy and strong. Now it’s time to focus on your own physical well being!

Try yoga or hiking to feel energized and stimulated again. These activities also create opportunities to make friends in your same boat.

Take Classes

Just because you’re a certain age doesn’t mean you can’t discover new passions and skills. Online tutorials help, but in-person workshops and classes will help you find a renewed sense of purpose, within a community. Consider taking classes offered by a community center to pursue interests you’ve never had the chance to before, in a social setting.

Come Together With Other Empty Nesters

There are many people trying to fill their empty nests at any given time! Reach out to friends who’ve recently become empty nesters, and find purpose in supporting them as you’d like to be. This also lets you build up meaningful relationships that may have been neglected while your kids were around. If none of your friends can relate, find some fellow empty nesters on Supportiv!

Hang Out In New Places

Often, having ‘birds in the nest’ can make it impossible to travel where and when you want to. You don’t have to make a big production, and it doesn’t have to be across the country. But even just exploring historic or popular areas of your city is a great way to invest in your own interests. Feel grateful you can spend as long as you want in your favorite museum or cafe! You’re living for you now.

Things Not To Do As An Empty Nester

There are tons of things you can do to cope with Empty Nest Syndrome. However there are a few things you should avoid doing, both for your sake and your child’s.

Calling Everyday

You might feel tempted to call your child every single day to check up on them. Resist the urge! They need time to explore and be independent, which they can’t do if they have one ear to a phone. And on the other side of the coin, you can’t set out to form your new identity while clinging to your role as ‘active parent.’

Visiting Often

Similar to calling, visiting your children too often can cause loads of problems. They have their own space now and it’s important to respect the boundaries that they put up. They have to learn how to run their own lives and what works for them – even if it’s by trial and error. Their roommates or friends may also feel uncomfortable with a parent popping by all the time.

Getting Too Involved

When your child is procrastinating on chores or struggling with a class, you may feel the need to get involved. Unless it’s something serious, hold yourself back – this may be the first time your kid feels the type of consequences that motivate change. Instead of involving yourself directly, you can listen to and validate your child’s frustrations, still being a safe home base figure, without telling them what to do.

“I ask myself this question: What is the best thing I can do for my kid today? The answer is: absolutely nothing. Leave her alone.”

Acting Jealous

Your child may stop contacting you as much as they find hobbies or get busy with exams. Try not to be jealous in the time you do have with them. Instead of prying or guilting them that they should call more, just value the time you do have together. They’re doing exactly what you raised them to – being independent adults!

The Takeaway

Just because all your little birds have flown from the nest doesn’t mean you have to sit around all day. Being an empty nester is an opportunity to love, respect, and work on yourself for a change.

And it’s important to remember that you’re not a bad parent for letting go – you’re doing exactly what you’re supposed to.

So take flight and start your own journey! If talking it out could help, we’re here at Supportiv 24/7 to listen.

How to cope with empty nest syndrome and be happy again

COVID-19 has given new meaning to the idea of empty nest syndrome. Millions of families have been in isolation together, and while proximity can cause us to drive each other crazy, the pit that opens up when it ends can be even more painful.

For the parents and grandparents who have relished having kids and grandkids at home again during the isolation period, going back to “normal” may come with feelings of loneliness or sadness. If you are struggling with empty nest feelings as a result of your quarantine household disbanding, know you are not alone.

The Empty Nest Is Actually Full—of Emotions

According to GoodTherapy.org, empty nesters may experience insomnia, anxiety and/or panic—as well as feelings of extreme grief, isolation/loneliness, guilt and purposelessness. They may even lose interest in activities they once enjoyed. These emotional impacts are only heightened by the stress and anxiety of living through a pandemic.

If you are struggling with empty nest syndrome, here are four suggestions for coping and finding your groove again.

Four Ways to Cope with Empty Nest Syndrome

1. Participate in Activities That Include Others.

Whether you’re an introvert or extrovert, we all need friends—and one of the most positive impacts of the pandemic has been the development of all kinds of new, creative ways to connect with others.

If you’re already involved in a community group, don’t stop now! If you’ve been too busy, go ahead and sign up for those art classes, look into university extension programs, or join a new online class at the gym. The excitement and energy of taking up a new hobby or learning something new is a real balm for feelings of loss, and being around other people (even virtually) can help stave off social isolation.

2. Find New Ways to Feel Valued and Needed.

One of the rewards of parenting and being together with your kids is the feeling of being important to another person. While nothing will ever replace the love between a parent and child, you can find some fulfillment in helping others. Look for a volunteer organization that aligns with your values and sign up! Offer to make masks or join a phone tree. If you have the resources to do so, foster a dog or cat from a shelter in your area. Or use your skills to help others—knit blankets for hospital patients, teach home repair skills online… the possibilities are as endless as your imagination.

3. Embark On an Encore Career.

If you’ve reached retirement age, becoming an empty nester might inspire you to re-enter the working world. Encore careers can take on many forms — a coaching or consultative role in your former industry, professionalizing one of your skills (such as giving art lessons), or even joining the staff at a nonprofit. These “second-act” jobs can be a great way to recharge your spirits, stay engaged and extend your retirement income.

4. Discover the Benefits of Homesharing.

Sometimes an empty nest means you’ve got unused space in your home. Homesharing offers a wonderful way to put that space to work and have some company around the house. In homesharing, your renter (or “housemate”) pays rent or does household chores (or a combination of the two) in exchange for living space.

Some homeowners find housemates by asking around among friends and neighbors, or by advertising in the community, online or on social media. Silvernest uses unique roommate-matching technology and other tools to make homesharing simple and worry-free. We’ve helped build happy homesharing agreements between people of similar ages or across generations.

There’s Hope Ahead.

Those “empty nest” feelings are normal and natural. While you’ll always miss having your kids around, the most intense emotions usually ease with time. However, if you find yourself too depressed or anxious to fully participate in your life as you once did, please seek out professional support. A trained therapist or, if need be, psychiatrist can help you work your way through this transition to a brighter future.