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Claudia Arp

Co-founder of Marriage Alive International

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Dr. Ellen Neiley Ritter

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Top 5 Things to Do

Though you may have spent years dreading your child’s departure from home, there are things you can do now to make this a fun and exciting time in your life. Your child is embarking on a new path into adulthood; why shouldn’t this be the beginning of a new journey for you? Here are five tips to help you pass through the first 30 days of enjoying your empty nest with flying colors.

1. Set up a schedule.

When and how often does your child want you to call or email? How often do you need him or her to check in? Before your child leaves for college or a first apartment, come to an agreement on these and other communication issues. Buy your child a prepaid calling card or add minutes to his or her cell phone to make calling home easier.

2. Acknowledge your feelings.

Whether you’re feeling sad, happy or a little of both regarding your empty nest, experience and accept these emotions. Share them with your spouse, so he or she can understand what you are going through; and at the same time, be sure to listen to your spouse’s feelings—without judgment. If you’re a single parent, share your feelings with close family members or friends.

3. Rediscover your mate.

You and your spouse now have the time and space to have meaningful conversations without distractions—take advantage of it! These talks can lead to discovery, appreciation and new opportunities for romance. Schedule regular dates with each other. Take a second—or third—honeymoon! For parents with other children at home, appreciate the decrease in noise and/or chaos. If you’re a single parent, now may be a good time to consider dating again. Go out for a night on the town or a singles event.

4. Explore new opportunities.

Finally, an empty nest means you have the time to research and explore that new career, educational degree, hobby or volunteer work you’ve been thinking about. Of course, take your time making any major decisions. Enjoy thinking about the things you’ve always dreamed about and the fact that now you can actually consider doing them!

5. Enjoy your friendships.

When your children were growing, you gave them top billing on your schedule. Use your newly found time to renew old friendships and reconnect with relatives. Be open to meeting new friends at the places you frequent—the gym, your art class, the library and so on. If the empty nest is a bigger challenge for you than you expected, find a support group in your neighborhood or online.

Posted: 11/6/07