As you may have already discovered, empty nester holiday planning is a little different now that the kids have flown the coop! Sometimes holidays can even be stressful when the kids have their own plans that don’t include you. Empty nesters sometimes spend holidays alone but it doesn’t mean we have to be lonely.
The world, our kids, and our holidays are evolving. And we need to evolve with them! Here are a few tips to help make your empty nester holidays a little easier and brighter.
Let Your Kids Do What They Need to Do Without Guilt
Your kids are grown now with plans and ideas of their own. They are trying new things and experiences. They may have new family members who need to be considered in their holiday planning. Give them your blessing when they decide to do something over the holidays that doesn’t include coming home. Don’t be that parent that tries to make them do something you want over what they want. Really, you don’t want to be THAT parent do you?
Just remember that holidays are NOT all about you. Holidays are meant to be fun and celebratory. If your college student wants to travel to Brussels to attend an awesome Christmas market and stay with a new international friend, support her decision. If your newly married son plans to spend the holiday with his bride’s family, make sure he knows that’s ok with you. If you make demands about holidays it only makes it more stressful for your grown children. And it won’t earn you any brownie points either! Instead, just tell them it’s ok and you can celebrate the holiday with them at a later date.
If this is your first empty nest holiday without the kids coming home, it may be a bit of a shock to you. It may take a little while to get used to the idea. I’ll never forget the first time I didn’t have either of my kids at home for the holidays. It felt a little lonely, a little like something was missing or “off” a bit. But I got through it just fine. I could have spent the day all alone but instead, I spent the day with other family members including my elderly mother and it felt a little like old times when my sisters and I lived at home. It was different but still special.
To Decorate for the Holiday… or Not
If everyone’s not coming to your house for the holiday this year, you have a choice to make about whether to decorate or not.
If you LOVE decorating for holidays, chances are you’ll still want to do it this year as well. That doesn’t mean that you have to decorate the WHOLE house though. You may want to downsize your decorations when others aren’t coming to visit. For instance, when we have family over for the holiday, I pull out all the stops and decorate the entire house. When it’s just going to be my husband and me at home, I just decorate certain areas, like the entry hall and family room. I may put fresh flowers with a holiday theme on the kitchen island or kitchen table. I usually put something on the mantel above the fireplace too. I do whatever makes me happy!
Downsizing your decorations by putting out your favorites but not everything you have will make clean up easier while still giving your house that special holiday feeling.
Guess what? You Don’t Have to Decorate At All
On the other hand, if decorating is always overwhelming to you and just don’t enjoy doing it, this is the perfect time to give yourself a break! Give yourself permission NOT to decorate and use that extra time to do something you enjoy. Meet a friend at the local coffee shop or wine bar to talk about the latest book you both read. Or maybe, grab your significant other and go for a hike or a long walk for some bonding time.
Entertain Others Besides Family…or Not
If you’re the life of every party and LOVE to entertain, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t do that just because your kids aren’t coming home. Survey your friends to see if anyone else will be alone on the holiday and if so, invite them over for the holiday itself or the day before/after, whatever you choose. You could have a holiday party in the evening and invite those you are close to.
If you attend a church you could ask your church staff if they know of an elderly person or persons that will be alone for the holiday. Invite them to your home for the holiday meal or take a meal to their home with a small arrangement of holiday-appropriate flowers.
If you live in a university town, you might ask if there are students who are unable to go home for this holiday and invite them over for a holiday meal.
Holidays for Introverts
There are all sorts of ways to include others in your holiday when you would otherwise be alone. On the other hand, if you’re an introvert, you may relish the thought of celebrating the holiday alone or with your significant other. That is perfectly fine too! Prepare a special candlelight dinner for the two of you and talk about all the things you’re grateful about. Or exchange small gifts that are meaningful to the two of you.
Take a Short Trip to a Place You Love
When the kids don’t come home for the holidays, it’s the perfect time for you to fly the coop too! While you could plan a trip to a big city to experience the stellar holiday lights and decorations, shop ’til you drop, and eat and drink in the finest culinary establishments there; you could also plan a short road trip to your favorite place to visit that’s only a few hours away.
Since my husband and I have moved to Colorado, one of our favorite places to visit is the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. It’ s only an hour away and we just love it. There’s always something fun going on at the Stanley, from their famous Halloween event to concerts to their gorgeous winter holiday decorations and scrumptious meals.
I love spending time at the Stanley Hotel. It’s a little too chilly to spend much time on the lovely expansive front porch overlooking the town and towering mountains during the winter. But there’s a huge fireplace inside to sit beside while reading or people watching.
What is your special place to visit? Now may be a perfect time to head there for some “you” time! But if you’re a homebody who loves spending holidays beside your own fireplace, you can make that special too.
Plan a Special Day Just for You
In order not to feel a little lonely on the day of the actual holiday, make a plan! Plan what you want to do in the morning, afternoon, and evening of the holiday. But most importantly, make it special just for you! If you have a spouse or significant other, share this idea with them too. The two of you may have similar likes/dislikes or they may be vastly different. The point is for each of you to plan your own special day according to what you enjoy doing.
You may want to get up in the morning, have breakfast and coffee and then head out on a long walk in the crisp air. Or, if you’re the indoor type, you may want to curl up by the fire to read a book you’ve been saving.
If you love to bake, you may want to spend your morning or afternoon baking something special, while your spouse may want to watch football on TV. Maybe you enjoy cooking together and you’ll do meal prep while listening to music.
In the evening, after your holiday meal, you may want to go into town and walk around under the holiday lights. Or go to the park in the afternoon and watch the children play while you take a leisurely walk.
Use Technology to Spend Time with Your Kids on the Holiday
Definitely make a plan with your children to Skype or FaceTime together sometime during the holiday to wish each other a wonderful and special day and tell each other what your holiday has been like. Share the things you’ve done today and how your holiday was special.
And lastly, say “I love you” to your children, spouse, significant other, and other family members when you talk to them. That is more important than you realize, especially when you’re apart for the holidays. You never know when someone may need to hear that.
Holidays May be Different Without the Kids But Still Special
To sum it all up, empty nester holidays without the kids represent a new season in your life that requires a little extra planning. It’s important for you to let your kids know it’s ok if they want or need to spend the holidays in a new way. That takes the stress off of them and allows you to be the gracious, non-demanding person that you are. Not only that, but it takes some pressure off of you too.
You have choices! You can choose whether or how much to decorate your home just to suit yourself. If you want to be with others and entertain, you can do that by seeking out others to invite to your home for the celebration. You could plan a short trip to a favorite place within driving distance and soak up the holiday ambiance. If you prefer not being with a lot of people on the holiday, it’s your choice how to spend the day. Make a plan for the day and spend it any way you choose. You can communicate with your kids on the holiday even though they may be far away through Skype or FaceTime. Holidays can be special even when the kids don’t come home. You can make it special.
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