“Parents really do grieve, but there is also an upside to your kids moving into this new stage of life, a real sense of freedom for the parents,” Jeffrey Arnett, a developmental psychologist and the author of the book Getting to 30, tells The New York Times.
In fact in, a survey in conjunction with Clark University of more than 1,000 parents revealed that 60% of parents were happy to have more time with a partner or alone and 90% were relieved that their children were independent.
Being an empty nester is sad, of course, but it’s not all bad. Here are some of the top benefits of finally see your kids go off to college or tackle adulthood.
18 ways to thrive in an empty nest
1. Feeling your feelings.
Of course it’s difficult when your child leaves. And it’s normal to grieve the end of an era. In fact, something you can look forward to is actually being able to feel for yourself. You’ve spent a significant amount of time worrying about your child, and now it’s time to think about you for a change.
You’ll likely experience grief and loneliness — and even possibly a little guilt about what you could have done better or differently as a parent — and that’s fine. In fact, you should feel. Reflection is an important part of the empty nesting process.
Maybe you used to take your child on vacation, and you probably all had a great time — pending, of course, the occasional or frequent temper tantrum. Now that you’ve dropped your kid off at the dorms, take that trip that you’ve always wanted to take. It can be solo or with your partner. Either way, the time away, will do you some good and let you relax, for once. Your parenting duties are far from over, but at least you can recharge for once.
3. Letting your child take the lead.
You’ve spent 18 years telling your kid what to do, and now it’s her turn. In fact, it should be her turn. She’s busy with her new life, and she probably doesn’t want you butting in too often, anyway. So it should be her call as to how often you talk and when you visit. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check in if you’re concerned or significant time has elapsed since you last heard from her, but you should take a largely hands-off approach.
Now that your kid is away, you know what you can look forward to? Visiting her! Schedule times when you can see the campus, meet her friends and more as soon as possible so you can look forward to something without perseverating on how much you miss her.
5. Finding hobbies.
You’ve dabbled in singing, knitting, learning a new language, or something else, but you’ve never really had the time to make the investment. Now is your time. Commit to doing that thing you’ve always meant to do. Sign up for a class or join a Meetup group and make that passion a reality.
6. Finding new routines.
It’s going to feel weird having dinner without your child at first, but now you can establish new routines. Perhaps you and your partner will go out to dinner once a week now or take a walk in the park. It’s different, but change can be a good thing.
7. Creating goals.
What’s on your bucket list? If you’re not sure, now is a good time to reasses those things you’ve been meaning to accomplish and establishing new goals.
Hopefully, your friendships haven’t fallen by the wayside since you had kids. Now that they’re gone, you have so much more freedom to reconnect with old friends and forge new connections.
When’s the last time you hit the spa? Got a massage? Meditated? Even just took a nap? If you’re a parent, it may have been a while. Now is the ideal time to take some time for you. Go to a yoga class or get a pedicure. Even take a nice, long walk around the block — whatever makes you feel good.
10. Turn your child’s room in a gym.
Not really. Or maybe really, if that’s what you want. Now, you can imagine the space your child physically occupied. Just remember that she’ll be back for vacations and holidays, so don’t make her feel totally unwelcome.
11. Taking on a passion project.
What have you been meaning to do, but kids got in the way? Whether you were hoping to get into shape or start your own business, do it now!
Let it out. Taking to your partner, friends or family can be therapeutic.
Have you been meaning to give back but never had the time? Make that time now. Shelve books at the library. Tutor inner-city students. Head to your local soup kitchen. You’re a selfless person — you’ve spent 18 years dedicating yourself to someone else, after all — so whay not continue the trend?
14. Redelegating tasks.
Maybe you like the way your family has been doing things for years, or maybe it’s time for a change. Have a frank discussion with your partner about how you’d like to do things doing forward. Perhaps you’d like to go out to eat more rather than cooking, or maybe you want to hire a housekeeper.
You never know the good or bad that’s going to come your way. In fact, your child might be back at home someday. (According to the Pew Research Center, 32% of young adults (aged 18-34) now live with their parents.)
16. Writing it out.
Having a lot of feelings? Without those snooping kids around, you can take some time to journal. This is extremely therapeutic, too.
17. Congratulating yourself.
Hey, raising a kid is no easy feat. Review the things you’ve accomplished as a parent over the past almost two decades, and take a moment to recognize yourself for your efforts.
18. Still being a parent.
Because through thick and thin, they’ll always need you, no matter what.
It’s not easy letting go. But remember that along with the difficulties with this transition, there are some things you can look forward to as an empty nester.