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How to Embrace Life as an Empty Nester

July 29, 2021

After years of diapers, ball games, piercings, and proms, the kids have—out of nowhere! —grown up and started lives (and maybe even families) of their own.

If you're adjusting to life as an empty nester—and yes, it can take years—you might relish your newfound freedom. At the same time, your days may feel a little more empty. You might be searching for new meaning in your life. Perhaps you're sad, excited, and relieved, all at the same time. Or maybe you've been an empty nester for awhile now, and are simply looking for more meaning and joy in your day-to-day.

Here are a few ways to look forward to the future while savoring and appreciating what you've accomplished in the past:

Live by Your Core Values

What are your core values as an individual? Some examples could be creativity, education, faith, family, health, or wisdom. Now that you're no longer as tied down by your children's needs, come up with ways you can embrace those values in your life more fully, whether it’s in your community, at work, or in your relationship with a significant other or close friends and family. Studies show that when people pursue goals intrinsic to them, they're more motivated, more likely to succeed, and far happier than people who don't pursue these aspirations. So really think about it: What are some new opportunities out there for living life as you want to live it?

Get Out Your Relationship To-Do List (the Fun One)

Think of all the things you've put off over the past few years, claiming you didn't have enough time to do them. Aim to spend some time doing something you enjoy with your significant other. It should be something you’ll both have fun doing—taking a long walk, cooking an elaborate meal together, or renting a flick you’ve both been meaning to watch. A study from the University of California, Berkeley found that women reported greater satisfaction with their marriages once their kids left home. And it wasn’t having more time that brought about the benefit—women simply enjoyed their time with their spouses more once the kids were gone. Think: quality, not quantity.

Give the Best of You

Just because your kids no longer live at home doesn’t mean that your skills as a parent are no longer useful. Think about ways you can “parent” your community by volunteering. If you were great at planning your kids’ parties when they were little, look into event planning at the community center. If you’re a great listener, consider spending time at the senior center on weekends. If you loved cooking for your kids, think about cooking a weekly meal for a friend who could use a helping hand. Research shows that volunteering keeps worries and concerns at bay; by focusing on others, we boost our mood and self-esteem, and feel a greater sense of purpose.

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