Facing an empty nest as a single parent of a college student brings unique challenges —
What are the trials faced by single parents with an empty nest and how can we not only cope but thrive during this new phase of our lives?
How To Face An Empty Nest As A Single Parent
Empty Nest Issues
Whether you’ve been co-parenting with an ex or have been ensconced in full-time parenting on your own, you may have focused much of your attention and time on your children. Many single parents fear the prospect of loneliness as they prepare to live alone for the first time in years.
Regardless of relationship status, many parents define their roles through children. Our social circles tend to rely on people we met through our children’s school, sports teams, and activities. It may be difficult to maintain those relationships without children around.
As we end any phase of our lives, it’s not uncommon to reflect on the past. If you’re divorced, you may find yourself thinking more about the breakup of your marriage or how things might have been different. If you’re a widow or widower, it’s natural to reface the loss of your partner as your children grow up.
Empty Nest Fixes
Allow Yourself Time to Grieve. It’s okay to feel sad or lonely when your kids leave home. Wallow under the covers or allow yourself an ugly cry a day the first weeks.
Alone Doesn’t Have to Mean Lonely. Connection does not only come from having a romantic partner. Social scientist and singles advocate Bella DePaulo’s research supports that single people are more connected to family and friends, while married people may be more insular.
Make Connections: Be open to expanding your social circle with others who may be in a similar situation. Smile. Friendliness is is infectious and you’ll feel less isolated just by saying hello to people you come across. Throw a party and ask each friend to bring a single guest or a person you don’t know.
Appreciate Solitude: While it’s important to make connections, learn to embrace the times you are alone. Read a book that interests you. Take a bath. Take up a creative hobby like playing an instrument, writing, painting. Go to the movies or a museum by yourself.
Seek Adventure. Do things you didn’t have time for when you were busy with young children at home. Take a class in something that interests you. Plan a trip or play tourist in your own city.
Stay in Touch. Schedule communication with your child via text, phone, even Facetime or Skype. Your child was likely busy those last few years of high school and you may find you speak with him or her more often now that your child is away.
Cherish the Visits. When your child does come home, establish new traditions. Plan fun activities to share. Remember to give your child space as he or she enters adulthood. Relate to each other on a different level. Discuss that your child is learning in school.
Volunteer. Spend time at a food bank or reading to a child. Visit an elderly person who can’t leave the house. Helping others is sometimes the best medicine.
The transition to empty nest as a single parent when your children leave home is momentous. But like any challenge, reframing the experience goes a long way to help you adjust. Use the opportunity to grow, to make new connections, and to focus on your next chapter.