30 things you have to do now that your kids have moved out

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Leaving home can be difficult for a young adult, but it can be even harder for the parents they leave behind. Parenting has probably been your main focus for (at least) the past 18 years of your life, and that's about to change. Coping with that isn't easy. But there are some things you can do to ease the discomfort of this transition.

You'll definitely miss your kid; but don't let that sadness blind you from all the good parts about them leaving home. This isn't an ending, it's a new beginning. You're about to start a new chapter of your life with fewer things to tie you down. How great is that? Here are some things you should do once your kids have moved out. Some of these will help you to cope with loss in a healthy way, while others are simply practical pieces of advice for this new chapter. There are also some suggestions for fun and fulfilling ways to spend your free time - you'll definitely have more of it!

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Give yourself time

This transition is a big deal. It's completely natural to feel overwhelmed, scared or saddened when your kids leave home. Don't rush yourself through coping with this change. Allow yourself the time and space to process your new situation, and have compassion for yourself while you do.

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Make a plan to keep in touch

Just because your child has left home doesn't mean your relationship has to leave with them. You may not talk as often as you used to, but make a mutual plan to keep in touch. For some parents and children that means talking on the phone every day, while for others that might mean a weekly check-in over FaceTime. No two families are the same; talk with your child to figure out what degree of contact will feel the most supportive to their new life. Make sure it's a schedule you both agree to and make a point to stick to it!

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Get support if you need it

Empty nest syndrome, a condition characterized by a period of immense grief after a child leaves home, is more common than you might think. Especially since it often occurs in conjunction with other stressful life events (such as menopause and retirement), this condition can be difficult to deal with on your own. Don't be afraid to seek out support if you need it, either from friends, family or a professional counselor.

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Get rid of clutter

When a child leaves home, some parents find themselves feeling resistant to toss any of their belongings, even if these items are mostly meaningless clutter. Don't fall into this trap. Once you have an empty nest, be proactive and get rid of extra belongings you have lying around. Donate old clothes, organize your kitchen, put things into storage and free up space around your home. Avoid creating a shrine out of your child's old bedroom. It's OK to keep some of their stuff, but be selective about what you choose to save!

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Make a list of things you want to do

You're about to have a lot more time and energy at your disposal. How would you like to spend it? Think about all the things you always wished you had time for and write them down. Did you wish you had time to read more? Did you want to train for a race or other event? Organize your thoughts and pick a few things to tackle at a time. Now's your chance!

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Refrain from making big decisions right away

Until you've adjusted, it's best not to make any drastic or irreversible decisions. Moving to a smaller home or changing career paths might be in your best interest, but give it a few months before you make the leap. In a time of emotional transition, it can be tempting to be impulsive. But these decisions are best made after you've adapted and feel more secure.

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Redecorate

This can start small, with something as low-effort as hanging up a few new family photos. But if you have the resources, a larger overhaul of your home decor might be in your best interests. Now that your lifestyle has changed, you may want a change in your surroundings, too. Redecorating can be a healthy and refreshing way to usher in a new chapter of your life. You might want to paint, redo a room or reorganize your furniture.

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Start dating

Dating was probably difficult to maneuver when you had a child at home waiting for you, but now you're free as a bird. If you're married, reinstate date night. If you're single, get back out there and meet people. Revisit your favorite date spots or try something new together.

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Talk with your partner

For single parents, this might be more of a self-reflective process. But for those who live with a partner, it is important to talk things through. What are your plans for the future now that your child has moved out? How are you both feeling about the transition?

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Consult a financial advisor

Managing finances can be tricky. A financial advisor can help provide useful insight and help you plan for the future. Now that your little one has left the nest, some adjustments to your finances are in order. College funds and retirement plans are rough waters to navigate; an advisor, if you have the resource to consult one, will help.

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Downsize

While it may not be smart to make this decision right away, downsizing to a smaller home can be hugely helpful long-term. Empty rooms can be depressing and serve only to remind you of a life you no longer have. Save yourself the grief (and some money) by downsizing to a smaller home.

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Make home repairs

Taking care of kids can take up a ton of your time and attention. It's likely that home maintenance, at some point, fell through the cracks. Now's the time to seal them up. Make those repairs you've been putting off, replace broken appliances and repair your property in any other way that seems necessary.

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Take up a new hobby

Hobbies can be rewarding in introducing you to new people, finding new interests or helping you discover hidden talents you didn't know you had. You might want to try playing a new sport, for instance, or take up an instrument. Maybe you decide you want to craft gifts for your family members or grow an herb garden.

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Travel

Traveling with kids probably seemed impossible when they were babies, and even once they grew older the added passengers made things more difficult. Now that you don't have to worry about leaving your children home alone, there's nothing holding you back from taking the trip of your dreams. Book a cheap flight and schedule whatever travel plans you desire. There's no need to cater your trip to kid-friendly activities or compromise on a destination. This vacation can be all about you.

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Catch up with your friends

There are many important relationships you should cultivate in your lifetime, including your friendships. Your social life is well worth your investment. Did you know that keeping in touch with people can actually help you live longer? Isolation, on the other hand, can be detrimental. Reach out to your old friends and make some new ones.

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Consider your work life

Now that your living and financial situations have changed, it's time to take a look at your work life. How is your work-life balance? Are you feeling ready to ask for a promotion? Are you looking for a career switch? Are you ready to retire? These are all things you should be thinking about during this transitional time.

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Start saving

Your expenses at home probably got a lot smaller now that you have one fewer mouth to feed, but that doesn't mean you should be frivolous. There are a lot of new expenditures in years ahead. College tuition, funding your retirement, medical care, any vacations you've been wanting to take... Make a savings plan and start tucking away extra funds where you can.

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Consider your retirement options

Review your retirement plans (or make a retirement plan if you haven't already) and make the necessary adjustments. Figure out how much longer you'll realistically be working and what your savings plan is for covering costs in the years after.

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Volunteer for a cause you care about

Volunteering can be immensely rewarding, especially if you're putting in hours toward a cause that's close to your heart. Doing community service isn't always feasible during the busier years of your life, but now that your children have left home you may have more time at your disposal. Consider volunteering at an animal shelter, helping to feed the homeless or fundraising for a cause you care about. If you aren't physically able to help with tasks that require manual labor, there are other ways to get involved. Many domestic abuse shelters, for instance, accept donations of knitted quilts or blankets, along with old clothes and books. You may also find an organization that accepts food donations.

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Embrace living alone

Living with other people comes with good times and bad. Take advantage of all the benefits of spending time alone. It's all in the little things. Blast whatever music you want, decorate however you please, spread out on the couch while you watch TV. Not wearing pants is really only an option when you're home alone - and for parents, being home alone doesn't happen very often. Once your kids leave, you're free to walk around in whatever attire you please. Now that's freedom.

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Attend more events

Staying in is a good way to unwind after a long week, but so is going out! There's no better time to get out there and be part of your community. Attend fundraisers, go to happy hours and join social groups.

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Check in on your health

With all the stress and responsibility of preparing your child for leaving home, you may have been neglecting your health. Make sure you're taking care of yourself. Schedule any doctor visits you've been putting off, get the precautionary screenings you need and take other steps to age healthfully.

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Catch up on your sleep

Stress can take its toll on your health, especially in terms of sleep. If you don't get the hours of sleep you need, you could end up with other health complications as a result. Now that this particular stress has been loaded off of your shoulders, try to get into a regular routine with your sleep. Reinstate a bedtime and sleep in when you need to.

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Host more events

Now that your house has fewer residents, why not invite people over? Host a dinner party or consider hosting a family reunion. Maybe you want to start a game night with your friends or have a potluck for an upcoming holiday.

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Take a class

If you've ever wanted to go back to school, now is your chance. Pursue that degree you always wanted. Or pursue a smaller goal by taking one class online or at a local community center. Learning something new is useful at any age.

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Reach out to family members

Catch up with your cousins, call your parents or invest more time in your other family relationships. Now that you have the time, it can be a useful and fulfilling practice to revive connections with your siblings or other family members. Especially at a time when your family life is in transition - in fact, some of your relatives may have gone through something similar when their children left home.

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Adopt a pet

Channel your caretaking skills into another kind of relationship by adopting a new pet for your family. There is no shortage of animals that need a loving home; head to your local shelter and find your new best friend! Of course, make sure you're financially and logistically able to take care of your pet before you commit. Some pets require more TLC than others. A dog, for instance, might be more of a time commitment than a lizard or fish, though it might be more rewarding. And, depending on your family circumstances, certain breeds of cats or dogs may be better for you than others.

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Plan your next visit

Yes, you've said your goodbyes, but know it's not forever. You can get started on planning your next visit to your child's new home, wherever that may be. Give it at least a few months - but after a time, they will probably be grateful and excited to see you!

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Identify new roles

You've been so used to the role of "parent" for so long, it can be hard to revoke that part of your identity. Know that you're still very much a parent, even though this role will likely take up less of your time. You can also work to identify some other roles you'd like to take on, to fill the space left by this one. Maybe you want to be a good neighbor or a mentor to someone at work. Maybe you decide to be a better friend or a more involved member of your community.

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Give your child some space

Keeping in touch is important, but you don't want to suffocate them. Resist the urge to constantly check in with your child. Though it comes from a place of love, checking in too often can come across as annoying or a sign that you don't trust them to be on their own. Being overbearing and failing to respect boundaries is actually one of the worst habits of toxic people.

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