7 ways to embrace being an empty nester

Published Date: February 12, 2024

Parents with children who have recently left home are known as empty nesters.
After years of raising and supporting your children, what happens to you when they leave home for college, career or marriage? While most parents are eager to see their children spread their wings, the transition can be a little bittersweet. Many people experience a combination of the loneliness of a quiet house and the excitement of getting to put your wants and needs first. Here’s what you need to know about empty nest syndrome and how to embrace it. 

Who are empty nesters?

Empty nesters are parents whose children have grown up and moved away. According to the 2020 census, there are 22.5 million empty nesters in the United States. Most people become empty nesters between the ages of 40 and 60. Many are still working, and some experience newfound financial freedom since they’re no longer paying for food, clothing, childcare and other costs related to raising kids.  
couple in kitchen looking at laptop

What is empty nest syndrome?

While empty nest syndrome isn’t classified as an official health condition, it’s well documented — and very common. Signs of the syndrome include feelings of sadness, anxiety and loss of purpose. And it’s easy to understand why, after so many years of prioritizing your children’s needs over your own. 

Symptoms of empty nest syndrome

While the experience is different for every parent, it’s common to have a variety of emotions during this time: 
  • Loneliness. It can be quite jarring to go from a full house to a much quieter residence and from a packed family calendar to ample free time.
  • Grief. You may reflect on your time as a parent and grieve for the life you had together. 
  • Lack of purpose. After years of homework, sports practices, family vacations and birthday parties, your calendar might feel unsettlingly open. 
  • Loss of control. With your children grown and on their own, you may miss keeping them safe, happy and healthy. 
  • Marital stress. For couples who’ve focused on raising kids to the detriment of growing their relationship, the empty nest phase can bring on new levels of relationship stress. 
  • Restlessness. You may feel like you aren’t able to focus like you could previously. It’s common for your mind to wander to your children and what they’re up to. 
  • Relief. It’s common to feel a sense of relief when children leave the nest, though it’s often accompanied by a sense of guilt. It’s understandable: The transition to empty nester is full of milestones. 

How to embrace this new phase of life

Most empty nesters settle into their new routines within two or three months, eager for what’s to come. Here are a few recommendations for transitioning into and enjoying this phase of life. 

1. Practice self care

Be gentle with yourself. With a newly open calendar, shortened to-do list and big emotions, now is the time to focus on taking care of your physical and emotional needs. Exercise, sleep, meditation and other forms of self care are recommended. 
A man and woman know how to make a house a home by stretching on their living room floor in preparation for their online fitness class.

2. Invest in yourself

You may have spent many years prioritizing your kids’ needs over your own, with their activities dominating the family calendar. Once the kids have flown the nest, you might find yourself with more free time than you’re used to. This is the perfect time to re-prioritize hobbies or interests you pushed to the back burner, pick up a new hobby, learn a second language, double down on your efforts at work, or travel more

3. Focus on friends

An abundance of free time means you can expand your social horizons. You may choose to reconnect with old friends you’ve lost touch with over the years or seek out new relationships. Volunteer activities, affinity groups and community organizations can be great places to find new friends who may be in the same season of life.  

4. Get to know your kids — as adults 

Your kids may not be little anymore, but part of the beauty of watching them grow up is the opportunity to know them as adults. This transitional period offers the chance to redefine your relationship and establish new roles and communication norms. 

5. Reconnect with your partner

In dual-parent families, it’s easy to slip into a routine where your daily and weekly routines revolve around caring for your children. Once your kids move out, it’s an ideal time to rediscover your partner and focus on spending quality time together. Consider taking more vacations or starting a new hobby together.
Older couple dancing together in their second home

6. Seek professional help 

If your empty nest syndrome seems to last longer than expected or seriously affects your day-to-day life, it may be time to seek out a therapist or counselor. As an objective third party, a therapist or counselor can provide coping strategies and connect you with helpful resources. 

7. Find a change of scenery 

When the kids have flown the nest, many parents find themselves feeling less tethered to their primary home. That can be a good thing — vacation, anyone? Pacaso co-ownership takes vacations to a new level and puts luxury second home ownership within reach. You’ll enjoy easy, equitable scheduling and hassle-free ownership of a professionally designed and fully managed home in one of the world’s most sought-after destinations. Pacaso properties offer flexibility, too. Because you have real estate ownership, you can swap to another Pacaso or sell your ownership with ease. 

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Jen Lyons

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