5 Must-Try Activities for the Empty Nester

emptynester2With the kids at college or out on their own, you can say goodbye to the days of shuffling them to school, play dates and after-school activities while squeezing in family time. Now you’re swimming in free time, and you barely know what to do with yourself. Chances are, you have a few friends who are empty nesters, too — and if not, it’s time to meet some. Try out some fun, relaxing activities with the other empty nesters in your neighborhood, and you’ll be a happier, more adjusted parent to grown-up kids.

Establish a “Tea Time”
In many parts of the world, drinking tea is an event, not an afterthought. Don’t just drink tea because you’re thirsty. Turn afternoon, morning or evening tea time into a regular event with your empty nester friends. Put aside the boring black tea. There are so many herbal tea varieties that are both delicious and good for you; for example, dandelion root tea offers health benefits such as better liver function. Try different teas each time and become tea connoisseurs. Try dandelion root one day and valerian root the next. Drink green tea and berry tea. Discuss the flavor of the teas and vote on your favorites to bring back for future tea times.

Pair your teas with light snacks, such as small pastries, rice crackers, English muffins and fresh fruit. Use tea time to catch up with each other’s lives or schedule regular discussions about books or movies you agree to read or watch beforehand.

Dance
Invite your spouse to dance or meet a new partner and take dancing lessons. Waltz across a ballroom or feel the passion of a salsa dance. Take off the pressure of romance and line dance or do aerobics with a group of friends. Skip the lessons and just wing it on the dance floor of a local club or bar. Your kids won’t be there to make fun of you or tell you you’re embarrassing them. Dancing will help you get in your daily exercise while enjoying the company of loved ones and friends.

Learn to Play an Instrument
You may not have had time to play an instrument before, but you do now. Pick up a guitar, run your fingers over a piano’s keys or play the violin, the bass, the flute, the trumpet or whatever appeals to you. If you’re not sure, try one instrument out for a few months and move onto the next.

If you can already play, start playing more. Ask your empty nester friends to form a band with you. Even if you’re all new at instruments, you can form a band after a few months of lessons. You don’t have to be aiming for record deals. Get together to jam in your garage because your kids won’t be around to complain that your music is too loud.

Shop
If there’s one thing that parents don’t have much of while their kids are growing up, it’s disposable income. Meet other empty nesters at the mall or make a day trip out of it, hopping on a bus or train to get to a bigger city with more shopping options. Now that you’re not buying junior toys every week or cooking to feed a family, splurge a little on yourself.

Go Camping
Maybe by the time your kids were teens, they couldn’t stand the idea of leaving their comfortable home behind for the great outdoors. If you haven’t camped in years, camp with your spouse or a group of empty nester friends. Enjoy the fresh air and the healthy activity of hiking up trails. Cook over a real fire and stargaze before you fall asleep. Camping makes you feel young, and it’s just the type of activity you might not have had time for while raising kids.

When parents experience ailments such as anxiety and depression due to the departure of their children, it’s called “empty nest syndrome.” The Huffington Post cites a study reporting 20 to 25 percent of parents on average suffer from empty nest syndrome, with some cultural groups that emphasize close parent-child bonds reporting as much as 64 percent suffering from this condition. Your kids don’t want you to be unhappy, and in fact, you can impede their growth and freedom if you continue to hover and depend on them. Start paving your own trail by finding fun things to do with other empty nesters in the neighborhood.