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Empty Nesters

5 Tips to help you thrive

Smiling couple packing mug in a box at home

Your children have grown up and moved out, and suddenly, you find yourself a part of the demographic known as "empty nesters." Life seems so different. You no longer have to spend hours every day carting your kids to sports practices and other activities. You're also feeling a bit lonely and aimless. However, with the right strategies, you can turn your empty nest into a space (and a life stage) in which you can thrive. Start by following these tips.

1. Give yourself some grace and space.

Remember that it is completely normal for you to feel a bit stressed-out, aimless, and confused at this time. You've spent several decades focusing on your children, so of course, it's going to be painful to have them out of the house and on their own! Do not let yourself feel guilty about any feelings or emotions you have during this time. Let those feelings come, and really feel them—don't shut them down. Talk about your feelings with your partner and with friends who are willing to listen. Acknowledging that this is a hard time for you is the first step in moving forward.

2. Reconnect with the activities you used to enjoy.

What activities did you love, but fell away from once you had kids? Maybe you once loved playing tennis, but you stopped going to the courts once you had to take the kids to soccer practice instead. Or perhaps you used to ride horses, but you gave it up in order to save for your kids' school expenses. Reconnecting with an activity you used to love will help you feel more like yourself again.

3. Set some new goals.

Look at this as an opportunity to reset your focus on your own goals and really work toward them! Your new goal can be anything. It could be to retire from your current job and start a new career in a field you've always admired. It could be to move across the country to a city you've always loved visiting. Your goal could even be to renovate your kids' bedrooms, creating a home gym or guest room that you never had before. Working toward your goal will keep your mind busy, so you don't get as wrapped up in your stress and loneliness.

4. Re-evaluate your finances.

Even if you are still paying a few of your kids' bills, your expenses have almost certainly decreased now that they've flown the coop. This is the perfect time to re-evaluate your budget and set some new financial goals. Meet with your financial advisor, and specifically consider whether you could be saving more for retirement, whether you should make some changes to your life insurance policies, and whether it's a good time to sell your home and downsize. (Depending on the housing market, you might be better off waiting a couple of years, even if that means you have a few empty bedrooms for now.)

5. Give your kids some space.

It's common for empty nesters to reach out to their kids when they feel lonely. This is okay to a point, but you need to make sure you're also giving your kids the space to grow up and be independent. You don't want them to feel guilty for leaving home or growing up; this is what you wanted for them! Call them once or twice a week, or text them to let them know you care, but be careful not to over-communicate. This will be better for your relationship in the long run and will help you to move forward.

Adapting to an empty nest can take some time, so be patient. If you take the tips above to heart, you'll be headed down the right path.

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