Quite often parents proudly state that their lives revolve around their children. It’s a great idea to be actively involved in raising your kids. However, you need to have your own interests, friends, and life too. Little kids can become more independent if they see their parents go out on regular date nights. Or if mom and dad take trips with their friends and invest in their hobbies.
This really hits home when teens are about to leave home for college or to pursue a career. Whether you’re in a relationship or a single parent, you have to cultivate friendships or interests for yourself. Anything that does not include the kids is crucial to protecting your individual identity as a person who’s more than just a parent. That way you won’t feel like it’s the end of the world when your kids move out.
There will be less cooking, fewer loads of laundry, and not as much mess to pick up (hopefully). That’s when you might ask yourself, how can I move on? But rest assured, you can. Just like your parents did. If you don’t have a very active social life, it’s never too late to start. Here are three ways to get help when empty nest syndrome hits too hard and you wish time hadn’t flown by so fast.
1. Get Help From Professionals
You’ll get tons of advice from loved ones. However, if you ever feel like you’re sadder than usual or much more anxious, consider getting professional help. If you sprain your ankle from a nasty fall, you would call your doctor. Similarly, if you feel you’re not functioning as you used to when considering your mental health, ask for help.
With mental health, the bruises are not easy to see. It might seem like you can just shake it off and things will get better. Sometimes they do. But not always. One way to address this is to journal. Splurge on a fancy notebook and some cute pens and pour out your feelings. Do it consistently at around the same time each day.
This way you can see patterns. Have you felt sad all week? What made you happy? Did you journal happier thoughts the day you worked out? If so, you should probably do more of that. Sometimes you can find small things that help your mental health. However, that also doesn’t always happen.
If you can’t get out of bed or have not felt like yourself, look into online mental health treatment. Trained professionals can better help you find solutions that best fit you and your symptoms. Just like your physical health, if you ignore things for too long, it can get harder to fix.
2. Get Help From Friends
Mental health professionals will also encourage you to mingle. It’s ideal if you have friends with children around the same age. They may have recently become empty nesters themselves or might be going through it with you. Talk to them, plan with them, share tips, and vent frustrations.
Don’t make abstract plans of “let’s catch up sometime.” Give your plans some definition so you are more likely to follow through. “Would you like to meet for lunch on Tuesday?” is more actionable and more likely to happen.
If you do not have friends who are in the same boat, you can find many online. The very popular Facebook group Grown and Flown Parents is a treasure trove of content. With more than 260,000 members, they can help you feel not so alone on this journey. Even if you don’t post in the group, you can learn much from reading others’ posts.
If you prefer more in-person socializing, you could join a book club at the library or find a local trivia night. Trying a new sport or hobby with a friend is another great option. Having a buddy join you at the gym or for a pottery class means you will have some accountability. If you’re going solo, you might just not make as much effort. Having some things plotted on your planner will not make the weeks look so bleak.
3. Get Help From the Community
If you cannot find friends nearby, don’t lose hope. It may get lonely when the kids leave. This is particularly true if they are halfway across the country and only visit for the holidays. Most Parents suddenly feel like they don’t know what to do with their time.
Focus on gratitude. Being grateful that you got to raise independent, young men and women living on their own is a privilege. Bask in that feeling.
If you are religiously inclined, many find solace in faith. Some people turn to their houses of worship for peace, community, and socializing. Religious organizations are often looking for volunteers. Help teach at Sunday School if you miss interacting with kids. Or perhaps organize a bake sale to raise funds.
Even if you are not affiliated with any faith, you can start volunteering at a local organization. Find a soup kitchen, food pantry, or animal shelter close by. Giving back to the community can help you find a new sense of purpose. As an added perk, you might also make new friends with similar interests.
Fill Your Cup
Take that trip. Buy that car. Try that thing you had been postponing all these years when you put the kids first. This is a new chapter in your life. You can fill in the pages however you please. Choose joy, choose adventure — choose you.