It’s a hard prospect for any parent, but most know the day will eventually come. An empty nest over the holidays can arise from any number of reasons: Travel across the country is too expensive, your children are spending time with another parent, or maybe they’ve got their own family to spend the holidays with.
No matter the reason, the first time going through the holiday season where the familiar presence of your children is gone can seem like a lonely prospect, but it certainly doesn’t have to be. Here are a few things to keep in perspective during your first year with an empty nest, as well as a few tips for activities.
Empty Nest Syndrome is no joke
Although empty nest syndrome may seem like something only joked about at dinner parties, it’s a serious psychological phenomenon that can lead to depression and anxiety. Thankfully this isn’t the case for most parents, but if feelings of loneliness—or, in more extreme cases, abandonment—are left unaddressed, they can fester and manifest themselves with more worrisome mental symptoms.
Half the battle in dealing with empty nest syndrome is acknowledging that these feelings are normal and biological, so reading about dealing with an empty nest means you’re already on your way. Just know you’re not alone in feeling this way; all parents go through this eventually.
Enjoying the nest
Children bring so much joy to our lives, but there’s no denying that they can create some headaches, especially around the holidays. Here are ideas for a few activities that may have fallen by the wayside during the childrearing years.
Revive old friendships: Chances are you haven’t kept in close contact with the happy hour and weekend friend groups of your younger years. If you have forgotten friends with kids around the same age, there’s a decent chance that they’re experiencing the same thing you are. This could be the opportune time to rekindle these friendships.
Volunteering: There’s no better time to volunteer than over the holidays, especially if you’ve got free time to kill. Especially pertinent for those dealing with empty nest syndrome, volunteering combat depression, lead you to new friends, and fill you with a sense of purpose.
Enjoy yourself! It may take some time and effort, but think of what you wished you had time for when you were swamped taking care of family duties. Whether this is picking back up a hobby, taking an adventurous trip or just treating yourself at a day spa, this is the perfect time to do it. Use that holiday vacation time to make the most of this time to yourself.
Keep in contact with your kids: Enjoying time to yourself doesn’t have to mean shunning your kids, wherever they are in the world. Plan a Skype date where you can open each other’s presents or tell them you’re missing them. If Skyping or a phone call isn’t possible, send them a photo of something fun you’re doing that day and have them do the same.
Of course missing your children is completely natural. Don’t shy away from it, but at the same time, don’t squander your holidays because of it. Your kids would want you to make the most of this time to yourself. This is a unique opportunity, and one you may not have felt for over 18 years: to choose to do what makes you happy this winter. So go out and make this the unique, refreshing holiday experience it deserves to be!