The Empty Nester Survival Guide
Finally, the kids are out of the house!
These can be some of the happiest times a couple can experience. But also the saddest.
Empty nesters – that is; people with the empty nest syndrome – are parents who suddenly find themselves “abandoned” by their offspring who finally moved out of their house (and their everyday life) to fly solo and actively start their adulthood. And, although the empty nest syndrome is not a clinical condition, it is a very common psychological reaction that, if not properly dealt with, can lead to bigger problems like depression, divorce and general turmoil within the family. Yes, because the feeling of grief after a son or daughter moves away is perfectly normal and healthy, what needs to be observed is what the empty nester does to fill this void. Sometimes they lash out on others, sometimes they close themselves to the world, and unresolved issues – involving others or only pertaining to themselves - that were long buried, rise to the surface and wreak havoc. Hey, sometimes they’re not sad at all, they actually get very happy and motivated, when still married go out on a second honeymoon stage etc. But, if not balanced, it leads to more danger and drama. So, empty nest syndrome is a tricky thing that parents should be aware of when their kids move out.
Knowing that, with the beginning of college and school year, a lot of new empty nesters might be coming to the first realization that their “babies” are gone and they might have empty nest syndrome, our team at RealEstateAgent.com came up with the empty nester survival guide; ideas and tips not only to help you predict the hurdles of empty nest syndrome but also overcome them.
Empty Nest Syndrome Symptoms
Finding out if you have empty nest syndrome might seem easy because, in a way, the “cause” is pretty apparent: the kids have moved out of the house. However, people deal with this fact differently, and, sometimes, even though the kid is no longer officially under your wings, the reality is that they are still very much present and dependent on you. So, it’s not enough to have the offspring move out of the house to call it an empty nest. The real empty nest syndrome symptoms are a non-stop feeling of void and loneliness, and, almost conversely, an euphoria and need to “achieve” things. Both of those feelings point out to a question that might be fully formed on your mind, or just in the back, deep inside your subconscious: “What am I to do now? Who am I now?”
Empty nesters basically have to deal with an identity crisis. Suddenly their lives seem to have no meaning. After a lifelong of being all about the kids and their schedules every day, ALL DAY, always ready and willing, with an instant knock on the door once you've entered the restroom… you are free to do whatever you want. And one can look at that much freedom and consider it either liberating or scary.
If you are constantly distressed, avoiding thinking about the kids because it makes you cry, if you’re worried all the time about what they’re doing – or you went to the opposite end of the empty nest syndrome and just don’t care at all, you moved on, you are so focused and excited about your new hobbies you don’t even remember their name - our advice, of course, is to seek professional help. Mental and emotional health is something our country, unfortunately, needs to speak more about to de-stigmatize and help more people live their life happy and healthy. But we have some practical help that can alleviate your soul, and push you toward a more balanced frame-of-mind. Hopefully, through those actions, you will make the most out of your empty nest. If you allow yourself to see it that way, this can be an exciting new moment in your life!
Tips for Empty Nesters
Identity is, basically, a made-up concept. If you’re feeling you don’t know who you are anymore without your children around, think back before they were here, you didn’t identify yourself as a mother or a father. Identity is constantly changing, so all that’s happening is a change of identity, not a “loss” of identity. And, while you can shoot for a whole different one, what’s great is that you already have the blueprint to your old one. Here’s what we mean by that:
Reconnect with your spouse
When we have children, they become our priority. Then, comes ourselves, and, only in third-place, comes your spouse. And that’s fine because it’s the same with them; it’s the deal you two made with each other when you decided to embark on this holy task of bringing a person to life. But now that the mission of raising a human being of their own is successfully accomplished, you too have a wonderful opportunity to rediscover the freedom and blessing of being able to go out on an impromptus romantic dinner date without worrying about babysitters, travel for the weekend without worrying if Junior is going to throw a party in the house and ruin the furniture, not worrying about having the door open and the noises you make... basically: you have the best parts of being young with the great parts of being mature.
If you two are one of the many Working Couples in Real Estate, it’s important to fully discuss how you two are going to shift the working relationship with the addition of so much spare time. None of you can be like “Hooray! The time I used to spend doing my duties with Junior, I’ll do whatever I want with it now”. Figure out how the duo will go about. How the shift in dynamics will be like. Assuming there was one of you that dealt with the kids more while the other was handling stuff in the office; maybe now the office’s duties can be dealt by the two of you on a 50/50 share of responsibility? And if you are not one of the many working couples in real estate… what if you become one? The life of a real estate agent is a busy one, and it can be the perfect vehicle to launch this rekindling.
Plus, if there’s one person that knows what you’re going through, that knows what it’s like to be an empty nester, that person is your spouse. You both had your life completely changed by the fact that your kid(s) is out of the home. Reconnect with your spouse! It can be a wonderful blessing to relive the old days and remember what was it about your spouse that made you fall in love. That made you two agree to “make” a child - a child that has grown and left the house to grant you, as a way of thanking for everything, the perfect setting for you to fall in love with your better-half for the second time around.
Reconnect with Old Friends
Empty nesters have the possibility of, now, reconnecting with old friends. It’s normal; you get too caught up with your life and, all of a sudden, you realize you and your old pals barely talk to each other. But you guys did not grow apart necessarily because of change of views, did you? So, now it will be great to rekindle – you have years of stories to catch up.
Besides the obvious benefits of reconnecting with old friends, chances are some of them – the ones who had babies younger – have also experienced empty nest syndrome. Hopefully, they’ll be able to give you good support by lending you an ear and by telling you about their experience as an empty nester – which can be a great motivator for you to realize that you too can overcome it.
A great way to start that rekindling is by throwing a party at your home. A themed party! You know; a great way to solve things that are eating you up from the inside is bringing them forth, addressing them. By putting a light on it, you stop seeing all the dark spots of it and they no longer become a problem. So, why not a themed “Empty Nesters Sendoff Party” of sorts? Invite your empty nester friends and tell them that in order to celebrate their kids finally going away, everyone needs to dress like they would've before having kids. Decorate the house with props from before you had kids, play music from that era. It’s a good way to screen those whom you’d really like to reconnect with from the ones who really grew apart and are not friendship material anymore. And to have fun! Which is very important right now.
Speaking about parties in your home…
For empty nesters, getting a new home is very important for a number of reasons. The main one is that changing your surroundings go a long way when trying to find your new identity. The trick is: you need to change more stuff in your routine, because if you continue living in the exact same place where your kids were living in, with the exact settings and disposition… the only thing that changed was the fact that the kids left, and then, of course, all the depression kicks in because you constantly notice their absence.
That doesn’t mean you need to buy a brand new home. You can do a renovation, switch around a lot of stuff, and transform their bedroom into something else - like an office. This project is an end in itself, you know? Especially if you do some DIY Home Improvement. It will be a great way to keep you busy, excited, and push you to overcome your empty nest syndrome. And in the end of it, if you’re not over it already, the house will look very different from how it was and will not contribute on reminding you your kids are not under your wings anymore. Beware of the downside of it, though: your kid might feel bad when visiting and seeing their old room completely changed. They like the security of seeing that nothing changed for them, and their safe place is intact. However, there’s a good lesson for them in seeing that the world is constantly changing and “you can’t go home again”; very important thing to learn when maturing.
Downsizing is an excellent idea for empty nesters as well, and there’s a number of reasons for that. You can sell your home - not that big for 3 or 4 people, but huge for just a couple - get a new smaller one and, why not, also buy a vacation home halfway between where you and your kid lives. This is a good idea to make you and your kids meet and spend some quality time together from time to time.
And finally, you’re probably close to retirement, right? Why not move to one of the best places to retire in the US?
Now, regardless if you decide on moving, buying a second home, downsizing or just making some home improvements, find a real estate agent to guide you through it so, in the end, you don’t also suffer from empty pockets syndrome. Renovations, Buying a second home and downsizing need to be properly planned so you can get the best deal out of it and actually move forward rather than backward - because most of the times you still have to deal with the college expenses of your kids; they might not be visiting you that much, but their bills definitely are. So, a real estate agent will be able to help you out with that. Don’t worry; they are very accustomed to working with empty nesters clients that figured out the same you did: we need to fill this empty nest up!
Get a dog
Hey, we’re not comparing your kid with a dog… but we kind of are.
In a lot of ways, a puppy emulates some of the feelings an empty nester misses after their kids leaving the home. That sense of responsibility over a life, and fulfillment when it does something remarkable under your leadership – plus the unconditional love – are some of the feelings you miss and taking care of a dog can, in a way, provide you. Just don’t name it the same name you gave to your son/daughter. They’ll be crept by it. And, actually, everyone would. Get a grip, man!
Now, when deciding to bring a dog into your home, go over every detail of it. Don’t just get the first dog available. Consider the house you live in, the amount of time you really have in your disposable – considering your kids aren’t like genius, they left the home when they were 16+ years, so we imagine they weren’t taking that much of your time; a puppy/dog needs to get potty trained, needs to walk and spend some energy… it needs attention! Don’t get a dog and completely screw its upbringing. You might have to deal with big problems afterward, with a big, nasty, violent, untrained dog.
And now, to close our Empty Nester Survival Guide, if nothing in our guide made you feel like you will get over the fact that your children moved away from your home, we also have a palliative…
Make new ones!
Well, it’s sort of joke, but, with the latest medical advances humans have been living much longer than previous generations, so it’s not that crazy of an idea. The birth of a child is always a blessing so, if you and your spouse want so, we say go for it! Maybe when they too leave – because it’s only natural that they do so, my friend – you’ll have matured enough to finally say “go in peace”. Love is freedom and the nest is never empty when the doors to our hearts are always open.
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