Thriving in an Empty Nest Advice

Written by Sierra Alvis

Kids aren't leaving home until next year? Learn why now is the best time to start preparing yourself for when they do.

The best time to start preparing for an empty nest is months before your kids actually fly the coop, say Jeanette and Robert Lauer, authors of How to Survive and Thrive in an Empty Nest. Although many parents celebrate this passage with a bottle of champagne, others grieve the loss of a live-at-home child. Here are nine ways to ease the transition:

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1. Loosen the Apron Strings
Help your child learn to live independently by giving him more responsibility. Allow him to cook for the family, manage his own budget or set his own curfew.

2. Cherish the Time You Have
While you can't put your life on hold until your child leaves home, you can focus on giving him as much of your time as possible. The months leading up to your child's departure can be hectic, so try to plan specific family times to take full advantage of your remaining days together

3. Cultivate New Interests
Always wanted to learn how to fence, earn your degree or explore the Mediterranean? Start planning now. Even taking small steps, such as buying travel books or signing up for a few classes, can help you pinpoint exactly what you want out of life after the kids are gone.

4. Focus on Your Marriage
"Don't wait until the children are gone to catch a second wind in your marriage," say the Lauers. An empty nest will only amplify problems between you and your spouse. Begin strengthening your marriage, by discovering new interests together, attending couples' workshops and if needed, seeking outside help.

6. Remember the Kids at Home
Don't let your remaining kids get lost in the empty-nest shuffle. Younger siblings can feel resentment, especially if the parents seemed to be more focused on their loss than the children at hand. Keeping an open dialogue between the remaining family members will help keep feelings of jealously and anger in check.

7. Recognize the Benefits
Once you work through the initial feelings of loss, your new life may not seem so bad. Among other things, fewer responsibilities translate into less tension and more free time.

8. Listen to Yourself
Which words come to mind when you consider your child's departure? The Lauers recommend creating two lists to record your negative and positive "self-talk." If you write "loss" in the negative side, replace it with "opportunity" on the positive side.

9. Plan for the Big Day
Your life an empty nester begins as soon as bid your child goodbye. What happens now? Decide on a plan before your child leaves home, to help alleviate last minute jitters.

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