How to Prepare for the Empty Nest

If you are a parent with one or more children who is getting ready to move out of the home, you probably have a lot of mixed emotions about it. You may be excited about having more free time and privacy but apprehensive about how much you will miss your child. You may also be both proud of your child’s independence and concerned about their welfare. Some parents even struggle with their sense of identity during the empty nest phase. It is normal to have these and other conflicting feelings. A big change is ahead of you. While you can never entirely prepare for what this will be like, you may want to consider the points below.

How to Prepare for the Empty Nest

Have a Discussion

You may want to begin by making an agreement with your child about what your communication will be like after they move out. For example, if your kid is heading off to college, will you want to do a video call once a week? Are you fine with just the occasional text? How often will your kid come home to visit? Talking about these expectations up front can help avoid hurt feelings later. It’s important to both support your child’s independence and ensure that they know you are still there for them if they need you.

For example, when I moved out of my parents’ home to my own apartment in the city, I returned to visit every weekend. My fiancé and I went to Mass at our parish near my childhood home, and then dropped by my mom’s place for lunch afterward. It was a great way to catch up on a regular basis, when both of us had some free time. If your child moved further away, or has a very different schedule than yours, than frequent visits like this may not work as well.

I’ve had to work hard to hang back and let my son make the first moves when it comes to communication. I’d be lying if I said it was easy. My son may not have been home a lot during his last year of high school, but a few texts a week is a whole different ballgame than being able to look someone in the eye every day. ~ Shelley Emling

Review Your Insurance

You may still be carrying your child on your health insurance for several years, but you should look over it and see if you need to make any changes now that you have an empty nest. If your child is a student, ask if they have health insurance through their university. If not, then you may want to keep them on your policy. If your young adult has started a new job, then ask when they get benefits such as health insurance at their new job, and update your own health insurance policy.

You might also want to take a look at your life insurance policy. These policies are important if you need to provide support for dependents. You might want to consider selling your life insurance policy when this is no longer necessary. You can get a lump sum cash payment that you may want to put toward retirement or a major expense, such as a home repair. While this is an excellent option for many people, be sure that you understand the pros and cons, such as whether there are any tax implications. You’ll likely want to discuss this with your accountant and life insurance provider.

Reconnect with Yourself & Others

With your kids away, it’s time to reconnect with parts of yourself you might not have been able to nurture as a person. If you had children when you were young, you might just be headed into middle age. If you started your family later in life, you could be looking to retirement. Think about what you want the next few decades of your life to look like.

When I headed off to university and my younger brother began high school, my mom started volunteering at our local pool. She had worked as an aquafit instructor and swim instructor trainer when I was a child, and then given it up for over a decade to focus on my brothers and I. With us getting ready to fly the nest, volunteering provided her with a way to get back into work. By the time I moved out and my younger brother started university, my mom’s volunteer work had turned into a paying job. Now, fourteen years later, she’s still working full-time at a rewarding job that she loves with a great team of co-workers.

If you are married, having an empty nest is a good time to reconnect with your spouse. Some couples struggle in the years after their children leave home and find that they have little in common. If you are concerned about this, you can make an effort to start spending quality time together and learning about one another’s interests. Don’t just assume that your spouse is the exact same person that you married. In fact, you may want to think of this time as getting to know one another again. You may also find that you have more time to nurture friendships and family relationships or to take on professional responsibilities it would have been hard to accept with children at home.

Allowing oneself to grieve the loss of particular roles enjoyed during parenting years is a healthy start to new growth. Discussing openly the strengths and limitations of the relationship and setting new goals together is also helpful. Letting go of old hurts and resentments is a necessary step towards growing healthier and holier in the marriage. Sometimes professional help may be needed. ~ Judy Clark

Have you experience an empty nest? What helped you transition into this new phase of parenthood?

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