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10 Fun Ways To Stop Missing Your Kids (So You Can Avoid Empty Nest Syndrome)

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empty nest syndrome

Empty Nest Syndrome? Not happening.

My daughter left for college last fall. My neighbor came over the next day, carrying chicken soup, worried that I had empty nest syndrome and was lonely, or worse, grieving. 

I was working as usual. I told her I was fine and busy. 

I admit, I'm lucky that I haven't felt the empty nest syndrome emotions that most parents feel when their kids grow up and move away. In fact, I was excited to get back to a full work day during daylight hours (no carpooling!), adult dinners with friends, stopping my short order cook function at meal time, and having a little space in my house. No more purple hair dye on the carpet! No more last minute sleepovers! No more teacher conferences!


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Yet empty nest syndrome is not only common, it's normal after devoting our everything to our children for 20-plus years. 

"When mothers talk about the depression of the empty nest, they’re not mourning the passing of all those wet towels on the floor, or the music that numbs your teeth, or even the bottle of capless shampoo dribbling down the shower drain. They’re upset because they’ve gone from supervisor of a child’s life to a spectator. It’s like being the vice president of the United States.” — Erma Bombeck, a newspaper columnist and humorist

Empty nest challenges our identity, explains psychologist and speaker, Guy Winch, PhD. We can't get used to loss. Instead, we need to allow some grief, share our feelings, and then move forward to replace that void we may feel with other facets of self. We need to rediscover ourselves. 

You can enjoy your new life and avoid empty nest syndrome, even if it feels altogether unfamiliar.

Here are 10 things you can do if you find yourself in a wistful mood thanks to empty nest syndrome:

1. Do what you love most.

Find something you love, or loved in your youth, and pursue it with the passion you did parenting. Rediscover your childhood dreams. Pamper yourself. 

2. Explore another side of yourself.

If you had kids at a young age, now's your time to find YOU. Take a class, or enroll in a university program. You can start online, or find a meetup group or a community class.

3. Travel.

I always wished I was Samantha in "Bewitched" and could travel with a nose wiggle. If I were, I'd visit a new city every week. Even if you don't have the travel bug, take a few day trips or find a place you've never seen in your own town. I found a historic landmark I never knew existed last weekend just by wandering around.

4. Declutter and organize.

Now's your chance before they come home for summer vacation! Downsize or create more space. Save only what makes your heart sing. If you're really daring, take your child up on the offer to turn her room into a gym. (I haven't gotten to this point myself, but I do dream of the possibilities.)

5. Have more sex.

Recreate that first-love intimacy with your partner instead of doing six loads of laundry a week. Come on, you know you've grown a little apart during the last few years. Get romantic. Get creative. Have fun together like the pre-parenting days. Remember when you only had to be responsible for yourself?


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6. Organize your memories.

If you don't want to do it for yourself, do it for your kiddos. My mother-in-law left each of us a box full of the things she treasured most about her boys' childhoods, as well as a medical journal and some amazing photos. 

7. Reconnect.

A dear friend told me once that the people who we have to move away from during our parenting years because of lack of time are usually waiting for us by the end of those two decades. I've found that to be true, and I'm enjoying sharing what we've been doing and what we've become. 

8. Find other loves.

 If you're single, you might look up an old flame. Adopt a pet, or volunteer for a shelter. Find ways to help your community, especially if the cause involves young children. 

9. Don't wait till your child flies away.

Start now. Stay engaged and active. Most of what you worry about never happens, and even those things that do mess up life for a while are rarely disastrous. Spend the time you'd spend worrying planning for your future. 

10. Keep in touch with your family members. 

We can still be there for our children and begin anew ourselves. Yes, we'll continue to worry about them at times, hope we've taught them the ropes enough that they can care for themselves. Yet I'm developing an amazing new relationship with both my son and daughter, one based on adult interests and perspective, and it's my hope that continues forever. 

“Your child’s life will be filled with fresh experiences. It’s good if yours is as well." Dr. Margaret Rutherford, clinical psychologist

My daughter's coming home for the summer. It's my hope that we establish a new rhythm like my son and I did. This summer will have an even newer rhythm around the house, though, because my son may stay with us a while as he searches for a job. (The only thing about change is that if you don't like it, it will change again.)

"Wow!" my neighbor says. "You must be overjoyed!"

Yes. And no. I want my kids to be welcome. I want to continue to see them and celebrate our lives together, maybe even travel together. Notice I said "lives," not "life."

The days of one family, one roof has moved on to much more. Because just as two flowers can become a huge glorious garden, our family has grown into a similar abundance. My husband and I are almost at the end of our teaching period, and that's a life well-lived.

Now's the time we can reap the rewards from all those moments of diapers, stitches, school heartaches, and senioritis. I no longer have to wonder about what snack to bring to school that won't put a student into anaphylactic shock. My whole family is celebrating our future — together — and apart.


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Kathryn Ramsperger, MA is an intuitive life coach and award-winning author. If you’re struggling as an empty nester, please email Kathy@groundonecoaching.com for a free consultation to explore Karthryn's proven methods to enjoy your new parental freedom in both your relationship and with your partner.