I’ll never forget that moment my parents dropped me off at college. My mom was a basket-case. I, however, was thrilled! Although I’m sure that she was genuinely sad to see me leave home (I was a pretty great kid) I think she and my dad were also grieving over what was the beginning of a long process of becoming empty-nesters.
I’m the oldest of five kids and I’ve seen how my parents have adjusted to a new life away from their kids. Suddenly there were no more concerts and sporting events to attend. It was time for my parents to establish a new life, finding activities to enjoy together into their retirement.
One of the activities that they love, that many empty-nesters are participating in, is to bicycle together. In our e bike shop here in Salt Lake City, we see lots of middle-aged couples investing in electric bicycles.
Why Empty-Nesters Bike Together
There’s a lot of practical reasons that empty-nesters are getting involved in bicycling:
- A lot are concerned about their health
- Empty-nesters are concerned about the future costs of healthcare.
- Many see riding a bicycle as a great way to recover from injuries or surgeries.
Given the fact that we sell electric-powered bicycles at our Salt Lake City bike shop, these new recreational vehicles can be especially exciting to empty-nesters. They can help couples if they are struggling with the typical ailments from aging.
But I think the biggest reason that couples in this age group are choosing to bike more is that it provides a healthy way to manage the grief associated with children leaving home. Experts say that the best way to treat depression is to increase your group of friends and become more social. Going out onto the trail with your partner helps you enter a new social circle of people your age. Many trail riders are baby-boomers learning to enjoy a new hobby together.
How to Manage Your Feelings as an Empty-Nester
A recent New York Times article outlines some key tips to managing this stage in your life:
- Accept your Feelings
- Make Plans to See your Adult Children
- Schedule some Fun
- Follow your Child’s Lead
- Grab a Seat at the Digital Dinner Table
- Create new Family Traditions around College
- Reconnect with Long-Lost Friends
- Set a Long-Term Goal
- Create new Weekend Routines
Accept your Feelings
Therapists tell you that an important way to deal with negative feelings is to accept those feelings. Allow yourself to experience anything that may be bad, even if it’s painful. When you do, those negative emotions can dissipate.
Negative emotions related to a child growing-up and leaving are also associated with powerful positive emotions. You don’t want to dull those good feelings by avoiding painful sensations.
Make Plans to See your Adult Children
Having an event like Thanksgiving or Christmas break can give you something positive to look forward to. Maybe you can visit for a birthday. Find an opportunity to stay close.
Schedule some Fun
Plan a date night, a weekend excursion to the mountains, or a trip to the spa right after you drop off your child at college.
Even if you don’t have a child who’s left home, having teens at home that are becoming more independent and socializing more away from home can be painful. Finding an alternative option for your own sense of fun can help you manage the emotion of loss.
Follow your Child’s Lead
Some kids, like I was, are fiercely independent and will be really excited about having some time away from the folks. Other kids are going to need a lot of extra attention during this transition in their lives. Follow their lead in determining the right amount of contact with them.
Making your kids aware that you are concerned about their needs, rather than focusing on your own, will help create a healthy new-type of relationship with your adult child.
Grab a Seat at the Digital Dinner Table
It’s never been a better time to connect with family members who live in other cities and states. Schedule Skype-time with kids and grandkids. Create a family Facebook group to share pictures and posts that only your immediate family would appreciate.
It’s also a great opportunity to use social media to connect with other empty-nesters. There are online groups that allow couples to meet up and create new friendships. Find a Facebook group of couples that like to go mountain biking on the weekend.
Create New Family Traditions around College
It can be difficult to lose certain family traditions. Even habits that were never official family-rituals can be a trigger for strong emotions.
My Mom told me how she got really sad when she heard the Friday night football game, and realized that she didn’t have any children attending these autumn town events, a common teenage pastime.
Rather than dwelling on what you can’t do anymore, it’s time to start new traditions. Our family of adult children goes out to restaurants for family dinners together.
Reconnect with Long-Lost Friends
There’s never been a better time to relink with old friends. Everyone has a Facebook profile now. Get connected.
It used to be easy to lose track of old associates and friends. But now you can join easily through social media. Make your digital life a tool for making real-life connections. Meet-up for dinner with that old co-worker, a friend from grade school, or if you’re a single empty-nester, maybe it’s a time to say hi to an old flame.
Set a Long-Term Goal
Maybe it’s time to lose some extra weight. Maybe it’s time to start a new hobby. Maybe it’s time to change careers.
“Long-term goals provide direction, can offer a new sense of purpose, and practically, they force you to commit time to something each week that’s just for you. Take college courses online, train for a marathon, get a boating license or finally write that book.”
Create new Weekend Routines
Your weekends are now suddenly free. Make them what you’ve always dreamed of. Get out. Socialize. Be active. Take a nap. Do what you want. Find joy in this new period of life.
Looking for Ideas?
We see empty-nesters every day here in our Salt Lake City electric bike shop. We love mountain and road bicycling. Come see us today, give us a call, or connect with us on Facebook. We can give you lots of awesome suggestions for enjoying Utah, getting-out, and finding a new healthy-lifestyle in this exciting period in your life.