Empty nest articles

When much of your life has been defined as a parent, it can be hard to adjust to life without kids in the home.

According to a long-term study by experts at Harvard University, fame and fortune aren’t what keep us happy. Indeed, tens of thousands of pages of information generated by the study suggest that good relationships are crucial, not just for happiness but for our health too. The study also shows how damaging loneliness can be to your overall wellbeing. Those taking part in the study who were more isolated than they wanted to be were less happy, and their health declined earlier in mid life than those who had good social connections. Isolated people, the study suggests, also live shorter lives than those who aren’t lonely. This isn’t the first piece of research to confirm a link between social support and health. Some studies claim having good relationships could make you up to 50% more likely to live a long and healthy life, compared with someone who is isolated. Loneliness isn’t just something that affects older people. But many people find it more difficult to make and maintain new relationships in later life than when they were young. So here are some tips on how to meet new people and make friends in your 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond… Don’t be embarrassed There’s no shame in being lonely, and you’re certainly won’t be the only person who feels isolated. So don’t let embarrassment stop you from doing something about it. You may feel uncomfortable about meeting new people at first. But ask yourself this question: what’s the worst that could happen? If you’re not used to doing much socialising, reaching out to people you don’t know may feel like a risk. But take the plunge and it’s very likely that you’ll discover others feel exactly the same as you do. Meet your neighbours Years ago most people lived in communities where everyone would be on 1st name terms with everyone living around them. These days, you’re lucky if you know who your next-door neighbour is. But being part of a local community is a good way to meet people in your area and may help you feel less isolated. If you don’t know who lives next door, say ‘good day’ to your neighbour next time you see them. Give them a smile whenever you see them, and you’ll soon find an opportunity to start chatting. Once you start getting to know them, invite your neighbours around for a cup of tea on a regular basis. If you already know your next-door neighbours, try to get acquainted with others further down the street to widen your local social circle, and look out for local community groups you could join, such as residents’ associations. Share your interests There are also lots of other groups you could join that may allow you to pursue your hobbies and passions and connect with others at the same time. If you like reading, why not join a near-by book club or reading group? Or if you’re fond of the great outdoors, look for a Ramblers walking group in your local area (visit theramblers.ie). Another website that could help you find a group that shares your interests is meetup.com – just type in your location and choose the subject you’re interested in to find the nearest groups in your area. Meetup groups cater for all tastes and ages, so depending on where you live you’re almost certain to find one you could try. Walk a dog Anyone who has ever walked a dog regularly knows how easy it is to strike up conversations and acquaintances with other dog owners. There’s something about the shared interest of having a pet that makes it easy to talk to a complete stranger who you normally wouldn’t dream of approaching. If you don’t have a dog, you might want to think about offering to walk one for a friend or neighbour. Alternatively, you could consider volunteering as a dog walker at your local animal shelter or join Borrow My Doggy, a website that matches dog owners with local people who can take them for walks and look after them when their owners are away. Do good deeds If you have some spare time on your hands, you may want to think about doing some voluntary work. There are always lots of different organisations that need people to help out, such as local hospitals, schools, churches and a host of different charities. And not only will volunteering get you out and about and meeting people, it will help to boost your self esteem too. Ask for details of groups that need volunteers at your local library, or visit volunteer.ie to find volunteering opportunities in your area. Connect with old friends If you’ve lost touch with friends from the past, you may be amazed at how easy it can be to discover them on social media websites such as Facebook. People of all ages use Facebook to keep in touch with what friends and family members are up to. Social networking is increasingly used by the older generations. So think about giving it a try if you haven’t already done so. Pick up the phone If the idea of signing up to a social media network doesn’t appeal to you, there’s always the telephone. It’s a great tool for getting in touch with people you haven’t spoken to in a while. And who knows, you may make someone’s day by giving them a call. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jul 09, 2019

Many parents feel mixed emotions when their child starts university. If your child is about to leave home for a new life as a student, you'll no doubt feel happy that they're embarking on an exciting new venture. At the same time, you may also be feeling a sense of sadness. These mixed feelings are common and you may be experiencing something called ‘empty nest syndrome'. What is empty nest syndrome? Empty nest syndrome is a term coined to describe the feelings of loneliness and sadness some parents experience when their children grow up and leave home. Some common emotions you may experience include: Feelings of sadness, loss or grief Feeling like you have a lack of purpose Having a sense of loneliness Being worried about your child's safety or ability to look after themselves Empty nest syndrome is more common than you may think. Many parents worry about their child and how they will cope with being away from home, while others are troubled by the idea their relationship with their partner might suffer now they're on their own again. Smoothing the transition If your child is starting student life soon, here are some of the things you can do to make the transition from being an empty nester to having a new zest for life as easy as possible: Talk to other empty nesters If your child is about to leave for university, you probably know other parents who are in the same boat. If you do, talking to them about your feelings can help you understand that you're not alone. Getting things off your chest and acknowledging how you feel can bring immediate relief too, especially if you can speak to someone who knows what you're going through. Reconnect as a couple Many parents struggle with empty nest syndrome because they feel they've lost touch with their partner over the years – and now all of a sudden it's just the 2 of them. If this happens to you, don't keep it to yourself, tell your partner how you feel. With all that extra privacy in the house you can start to rekindle your relationship and get to know one another again. Try doing things you used to do for fun before your family came along, such as having more evenings out or more weekends away. Or you could finally take that trip of a lifetime you've always dreamt of. It may feel strange when you start doing things for yourselves after decades of putting your children first, but having more quality time together should do wonders for your relationship. Take some time out Getting your child ready for university can be a busy time. Preparing them for an independent life means making sure they can cook for themselves, do their own laundry and lots more. So when the day finally comes, give yourself permission to take it easy for a week or two. Without any children to look after you can eat whatever you want, sleep in at the weekend and forget about washing and ironing. Indulge yourself – it could help you start to appreciate your new-found freedom. Delay any drastic changes Once your children have left home you may be tempted to make changes, such as moving house for instance. But while it may feel a big part of your life is coming to an end, take the time to fully adjust to your new situation before you make any major decisions. Get active Being more physically active is a great way to boost your mood as it helps your body release 'feel-good' hormones called endorphins. Try to take up active leisure pursuits that happen outdoors, as studies suggest there's a positive relationship between exposure to nature and positive mental health. If you can be moderately active for at least 150 minutes a week, you'll improve your physical health too. Try not to pester Even when you live apart you can still be close to your children. Today's technology means it's never been easier to stay in touch by phone, email, text and video chat. When your child first leaves they'll probably want to stay in touch regularly too. But it's important to give them space to adjust to their new life, so try to avoid smothering them by constantly monitoring their social media or calling them too often. While your initial outlook may be gloomy when your last child leaves, you'll soon start seeing the positives. You've done a great job raising your family, but now it's your time. Article reproduced with the kind permission of CABA, the organisation providing lifelong support to ICAEW members, ACA students and their close family around the world.

Jun 12, 2019