What to Say to an Empty Nester to Help them Transition

The time has come. The kids have spread their wings and flown the coop—what an accomplishment! After all, you’ve kept them alive and well for nearly two decades, don’t you deserve some time to yourself after all this time? You are finally an empty nester and have time to relax, start that hobby you’ve put off for 12 years, and spend quality time with your partner. Doesn’t it feel great to have so much free time?

Wait… what do I do with my free time? I hardly know what that feels like. My life has revolved around my kids for so long, I don’t know who I am without them.

That’s how it can feel when becoming an empty nester. Those feelings are signs of the Empty Nest Syndrome. Empty Nest Syndrome refers to anxious or depressive feelings parents or caregivers may have when their children leave home. This syndrome is not a clinical diagnosis, but it is an experience of loss of purpose. Many newly empty nesters will experience grief over the life they had when their child or children were home and may be more susceptible to depression and anxiety. 

These feelings are common, though we may not know what to say to the newly empty nester in our lives. 

So what can we do to help?  

What To Say To Empty Nesters

Every empty nester will have a unique experience—there’s no one-size-fits-all-mama-birds advice to give. With the help of other thriving empty nesters, we can extend some words of encouragement for you or your newly empty nest caregivers.

1. You have a purpose outside of your kids.

You were your own person before you became a parent or caregiver. While your interests and activities have changed since then, having an empty nest is a new opportunity for you to discover what lights you up. Reinventing your identity can sound overwhelming, but we encourage you to look at it as an opportunity. 

What are the parts of you that have been wanting to come out, but you kept pushing down because your children came first? What is that one thing you’ve always wanted to do, but the timing wasn’t right? Now that you don’t have to spend money on extra groceries, what can you save up for? This is your chance to volunteer, join a group, start a hobby, or travel. Rediscover who you are!

2. Stay healthy.

Feelings empty nesters may experience can lead to or add to anxiety, depression, and substance misuse, among other things. To continue thriving in life, make sure you are implementing healthy coping skills as you adapt to your empty nest. Even when you don’t feel like it, move your body. Go for a walk, go to the gym, or do activities in or around your home. No matter what, move your body. It works wonders for your mental and physical health! 

3. Communicate.

Your children are grown, and you need to let them go. They need to become their own person just as much as you do, even if it stings. While this can be a huge adjustment, remember to keep communication open with your family. This demonstrates to your children that you can discuss things even when they’re uncomfortable or you aren’t sure what the answer is. 

You may also consider finding other empty nesters to talk with, so you can lean on each other during this transitional period. If more deep-seated issues arise, there is no shame in seeking professional mental health services. Having healthy, open communication with your loved ones will nurture your relationships and help ease this transition. 

4. Nurture other relationships.

If you are married or in a relationship, reconnect with your partner. Do activities that bring you closer together. After having kids in the house for so long, this is a period where you can rediscover or reinvent your relationship! You may also reconnect with yourself, especially if you are a single parent or caregiver. Find a group of friends who have similar interests and connect with them regularly. Investing in friendships will keep you busy and give you opportunities to connect with others.

How Kids Can Check-In on Their Empty Nest Parents

Kids, listen up! Your parents or caregivers miss you. This is as big of a transition for them as it is for you. You may not feel like you need them anymore, but you do (and you will all throughout life). They want to know you still need them and appreciate them, even if it looks different now. 

So what do you say to your empty nesters? How can you help them transition into a new role while you start a new chapter of your life?

1. Stay connected.

They want you to call them. They also want you to call them back. So do it. Update them on mundane details of your day—they’ll love it! 

When something reminds you of them, let them know. When you grumble over doing your own laundry because your mom isn’t there to do it for you anymore, let her know you appreciate how much laundry she did for you. Let your caregiver know that you miss their cooking and would much rather have your favorite meal for dinner than whatever is being served in the dining hall. We understand that schedules get busy and you may be in different time zones, but making time to talk with your empty nesters will mean the world to them!

2. Encourage your empty nesters.

This is a time of adventure and discovery for you, right? The same opportunities pertain to your empty nesters! Encourage them to pursue hobbies and passions they’ve always put on the back burner. Encourage them to travel and make more social connections. Plan something for them and surprise them with it. They will love the thought behind it! Let them know they have your support to do something that doesn’t involve living around your schedule. 

3. Make plans.

Schedule times for you to visit your parents or caregivers and vice versa. Having something to look forward to will help keep their spirits high. You can also plan activities to do together during that time, which eases the waiting period. 

We may not have the most groundbreaking advice, but we know many thriving empty nesters and birds who have spread their wings farther than they ever imagined they could. The truth is that transitions can be tough for all parties involved, and we want you to be prepared and adjust well. For more advice about how to adjust to sending your kids to college, check out this article!

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