Empty Nest Syndrome

The best advice I have for friends whose kids are leaving home is to just let yourself feel all the feelings. Save your tears for the end of this chapter. 

You need to respect and cherish your life’s seasons.  But be careful not to let yourself get stuck there.  At some point, you have to allow the next chapter to begin.

Believe it or not, eventually, you’ll find things to love and appreciate about an empty nest.  In the past few years, my life has blossomed in ways I never imagined.

And apparently, I’m not alone, because research shows that women over 50 are among the happiest and most content!

If you’re currently in the middle of it all, wondering what’s next as an empty nester and how long the feelings of empty nest syndrome will last, let me encourage you – there is life after your children leave home!

While becoming an empty nester is a life-changing experience, it doesn’t have to throw you off track.

There’s so much happiness in store for you!  That’s why I wrote this post–to encourage you to focus on what’s next.  God loves us too much to let us stay where we are.  He’s always moving us forward and working things together for our highest good.

If you stay open, the phase of life you’re in right now can be a time of growth and new possibilities.  This is your opportunity to reinvent yourself and start fresh.

Now is the time to rediscover all the activities you set aside while you were raising your kids.  Can you remember what they were? After our girls left home, I had a hard time recalling what I enjoyed doing before we had children!

To help you get started, I made a list of 33 things to do after the kids leave home.  These are the things that helped me move past heartache and find purpose as an empty nester.

I realize many of these ideas might seem obvious, but when you’re in the middle of it all, sometimes you can’t think of anything productive or positive to do, so I hope this list opens your mind and heart to some of the possibilities available to you after your kids leave home. 

33 Things to Do After the Kids Leave Home

1.  Volunteer

Do you know an elderly person who could use some groceries or company?  A neighbor who’s going through a hard time?  A teacher who needs an extra pair of hands in the classroom?  I can’t think of a better way to move past heartache than by reaching out and helping others who are in need.

2.  Travel  

An empty nest provides the perfect opportunity to start planning trips to places you’ve always wanted to see.  I’ve found that planning and looking forward to a getaway is almost as much fun as the actual trip!

3. Expand your culinary skills

This is the perfect time to broaden your home cooking or baking skills, try out new recipes, and discover new cuisines.  Now you can use all those ingredients your kids didn’t like! Here are a few favorite recipes from Jane at Home:

Quick and Easy Oat Flour Crepes Recipe

Stacked Chicken Enchiladas with Salsa Verde & Sour Cream

Easy Homemade Zuppa Toscana Recipe (the Best!)

Authentic Pasta e Fagioli Soup

4.  Declutter your spaces

I’ve found that having too much stuff–even if it’s hidden behind a closet door–weighs me down, affecting my energy and creativity. Decluttering our home every few months helps clear out the mental cobwebs and gives me a new perspective on life.

5. Get creative

An empty nest provides the perfect opportunity to explore or rekindle a love of hobbies like painting, calligraphy, knitting, pottery making, woodworking, sewing, cross-stitch … the creative possibilities are endless!

There are thousands of online courses available, as well as local college classes and even free tutorials on YouTube.

6. Put pen to paper

Have you always dreamed of becoming an author?  Now’s the time to start writing! You never know who is waiting to hear what you have to say.

7. In a similar vein, why not start a blog?

As an interior design blogger, I’m constantly learning new things and get to share my passion with others. It’s the best job in the world!

Blogging is a great way to share your ideas with those who can benefit from your experience.  If you’re interested in exploring blogging, either as a hobby or a career, here’s my post on How to Start a WordPress Blog, Step by Step.

8. Plant a garden

Have you ever thought about starting a vegetable, flower, or container garden?  It’s so rewarding!  Getting your hands in the dirt, nurturing plants, and seeing them thrive reconnects you with nature.

9. Turn your hobbies into a business

After becoming an empty nester, I took my love of interior design, writing, cooking, health, and travel and poured it into a blog and business. 

I think this one step, more than anything else on the list, helped me find a new sense of purpose as an empty nester.

10. Take time for self-care and relaxation

Now’s your chance to enjoy some downtime, spend time sitting in the garden, appreciate the sunrise or sunset, and take long baths (without kids banging on the bathroom door!).

11. Focus on your health

My emotions were up and down as I adjusted to life as an empty nester (menopause didn’t help either), but this book helped me balance my moods.  This might also be a good time to see your doctor or naturopath to make sure your hormone levels are where they need to be.

12. Keep a gratitude journal

I’ve noticed I’m happiest when I focus on what’s going well in my life, rather than what’s not, so every day I try to write down at least 10 things for which I’m grateful.  So simple, but so powerful!

13. Invite someone over for dinner

Gathering people around the dinner table is one of my favorite things to do–especially now that we have an empty nest.  If you’re a little rusty in the hosting department and need some tips, I wrote a post on how to host a casual dinner party, including menu ideas and a timetable.

14. Connect on social media

I’ve met some of the nicest women in the home décor community over on Instagram–but you might prefer to connect on Pinterest or Facebook. 

15. Deepen your spiritual practice

Soon after becoming an empty nester, I started setting aside time for daily prayer and meditation, and I still try to meditate for about 20 minutes every morning.  Even though some days I just sit there and think about my grocery list and all the things I need to do that day, I do believe meditating has helped me become a calmer, happier person.

16. Learn a new language

Just recently, I discovered the Duolingo app on my phone and started taking French lessons.  And I have to admit, it’s become a bit of an obsession!  Now, rather than scrolling through Instagram or Facebook, I spend my spare moments learning something new!  

17. Get moving

This is a great time to begin taking daily walks or hikes, add some strength training to your routine (so important for women!), join a gym, or get some exercise DVDs from Amazon and work out at home.  I usually begin my day with a few minutes of gentle yoga to help maintain my flexibility and balance.

18. Switch up your beauty routine

I know it sounds superficial, but a change in your makeup, hairstyle, or hair color can refresh your outlook on life.  Just getting my roots touched up makes me feel like an entirely new person!  YouTube is a great resource for makeup and hairstyling tutorials.

19. Update your wardrobe

Refreshing your sense of style can help you see yourself in a new light and, in turn, help you approach the world in a more positive way.  You might even want to clean out your closet and pare down to a capsule wardrobe.

20.  Become tech-savvy

Have you always wanted to learn how to use Photoshop, PowerPoint, or Excel?  Now is the perfect time to master the latest programs, apps, and gadgets.  (Your kids will be so impressed!)

21. Update your home

An empty nest provides a great opportunity to refresh your home and surroundings.  Simply rearranging the furniture or moving artwork and pillows around can lift your spirits, giving you an entirely new outlook on life!

22. Establish a new relationship with your kids

When my daughters lived at home we talked about everything and went shopping together all the time, so when they left I felt lost and a little bored.  But I soon discovered that one of the most wonderful things about being an empty nester is getting to know your children as adults. 

Now we meet for coffee, plan vacations together, and share all our ups and downs.  And while I’ll always be their mom, I’m also blessed to call my daughters my best friends.

23. Strengthen your marriage

If you relegated your marriage to the back burner while you focused on your kids (guilty!), an empty nest provides the perfect opportunity for starting over fresh, reconnecting with your spouse, and rediscovering why you fell in love in the first place.

24. Continue your education

This is a great time to take some online classes, finish your degree, or pursue a brand new profession. I love learning about natural wellness and nutrition, so after our girls left home I went to nutrition school and became a certified health coach.

25. Nurture your friendships

It’s so easy to neglect our friendships while we’re busy raising our kids. This is the perfect time to reconnect with friends, whether at a local coffee shop or via phone. One of the benefits of being an empty nester is you can now enjoy long, uninterrupted conversations!

26. Meet with a financial advisor

Make sure your affairs are in order and that you’ll have enough money to retire when that time comes.  And, whether you’re married or single, if you don’t have a current will, this is a great time to see an estate attorney and get that done, too.  

27. Spend some time with little ones

There are many ways to spend time with children after your kids leave home, including volunteering at schools, reading at the library, or teaching Sunday School–which is how my husband and I stayed involved with little ones after our girls grew up.

28. Connect with extended family

After your children leave home, getting together with your parents and siblings is a great way to fill the need for connection.  If you’re spread out across the country or world, you might even want to start planning a family reunion!

29. Adopt a new family member

Pet adoption or animal rescue is a beautiful way to fill the void and boredom an empty nest can bring.  I don’t know what I’d do without our furry family members! They’re a huge part of my life, and I always end up receiving even more love than I give.

30.  Join a club

Joining a book club, local sports team or civic organization is a great way to make new friends, explore an interest or hobby, and keep from getting bored as an empty nester. 

31.  Go on a date

Now that the kids have left the nest, this is a wonderful opportunity to go on dates and reconnect with your spouse, if you’re married, or meet new people, if you’re a single empty nester.

32.  Take a road trip

Are there places in the country you’ve always wanted to visit?  This is a great time to load up the car and take a road trip, visit national parks, and appreciate the varied beauty and scenery of different regions of the country.

33. Finally, read a book

This is your chance to finally read all those books that have been sitting on your nightstand for years! Reading has the ability to carry us away, inspire us, and change our outlook on life.  These days, I’m mostly into non-fiction, but when I want to immerse myself in another world, here’s a fiction series I love.

Although becoming an empty nester is something nearly every parent will experience, most of us aren’t prepared for all the changes and emotions that come up.  And because we all arrive at this time of life with a different mindset and set of expectations, we really can’t know how we’re going to handle it until we’re right in the middle of it!

Whether you’re a new, seasoned, or soon to be empty nester, I hope this list gave you some encouragement and ideas for activities to do after your kids leave home.

Please share your thoughts and any response you may have in the form below.

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