Two years ago, my husband and I fulfilled our dream to move to Southwest Florida after our three children officially left the nest to pursue their own dreams. I love living in paradise, but being an empty nester is another story.
Don’t get me wrong: I am thrilled that our children are pursuing their dreams. My husband and I have been blessed with good health, fulfilling professional careers, and volunteer opportunities to give back to this wonderful community. Friends and family continue to enrich our lives beyond measure. We have taken up our favorite hobbies, especially tennis and golf, with renewed passion. We enjoy travelling — and now we don’t worry about teenagers having a big house party while we’re gone.
Yet, during this new season of our lives, sometimes I have to remind myself to enjoy the peace of our newfound freedom.
If you are a parent of a child who is preparing to move out of your home for the first time, you may experience similar feelings and emotions associated with empty nest syndrome. Here are some tips to help you embrace this new adventure:
For some of us who have close relationships with our children, it can be easy to focus too much attention on their lives instead of remaining present in our own. Avoid this by maintaining your hobbies or activities during this transition. Socialize with friends and prioritize exercise. Activities such as golf, tennis, walking, and yoga can lift your mood while improving your fitness.
Ease your transition into living by yourself or with your significant other by setting new goals. Pursuing your goals or dreams will cultivate a sense of independence and the wonderful feeling of accomplishment when you fulfill them. Consider creating goals that have been on the back burner for several years, such as taking college courses, writing a book, or running a marathon.
We often try to deal with this new period in our lives alone. Instead, reach out for support from family members and friends. Be honest and open with the emotions you’re experiencing; allow yourself to receive the counsel, comfort, and care of others who have experienced what you’re going through. You are not alone. Schedule coffee dates, meet for lunches, host dinner parties, and conduct other activities that will strengthen your relationships. You may be pleasantly surprised by how they can fill the void of a child who has left home.
For some empty nesters, just being in our own homes can pose our biggest challenge after the kids have moved out. If this is true for you, consider planning a trip to a destination that you can visit with your significant other or with a friend. You’ll enjoy planning an itinerary, trying new activities, and relaxing in new surroundings that will help clear your mind and reorient you to your new life.
Change or transition can be difficult and can foster negative or unhelpful thinking. You may spend too much time reliving old memories or wishing you could go back in time, inviting depression and loneliness. Instead, focus on the positive, lightening your heart. One way is to keep a gratitude journal, where you write down all the blessings in your life. This journal can really help put life in perspective and lift your spirit.
Lisa O’Neil is the system director of Marketing and Brand Management at Lee Health. She and her husband moved to beautiful SW Florida in 2017. When she is not serving at Lee Health, you most likely will find her on the tennis court, walking her dog, or planning a trip to visit her three grown children.
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