My latest blog post for Oprah.com, How to find support online, talks about ways to get support during life passages. Whether you’re celebrating milestones like the birth of a baby, a marriage or a birthday, or confronting challenges like death or illness, I’ve got some pointers on how the web can help.
Here’s one passage I didn’t tackle in the piece: what to do with your newly empty nest. We are still many years away from having an empty nest ourselves, but a number of our friends now have grown or nearly-grown kids. Here’s what I suggest to them about how to use the web to smooth the transition:
- Keep in touch: If you’ve never been one for video chat, this is the time to start using Skype. If you’ve avoided friending your kids on Facebook, it’s now the best way to keep in touch with them (here is a great story on how to do that gracefully). And for heaven’s sake, learn how to read your text messages so your kids can text you when they want to come home and do a load of laundry.
- Get out and play: Remember what it was like when you had small kids and couldn’t go out at night? Let me the voice of housebound evenings past: having kids at home is lovely, but I envy you your newfound freedom! So get out there and have some fun. Find events and concerts on Upcoming or Eventful; get recommendations for movies on Metacritic; book a dinner at the new hot restaurant on OpenTable.
- Make contact: Odds are good that your kids are using some kind of location service like FourSquare or Gowalla. These services ask you to “check in” when you visit a bar, theater or just about any other kind of location; a lot of young people use location services so they can find out where their friends are hanging out, and then meet up with them. If you can convince your kids to tell you which service(s) they use, and friend you on them, you’ll be able to “spontaneously” turn up when they are visiting a café or bar. Just make sure you have some ground rules for when they do and don’t want to see Mom show up at their favorite watering hole. And if your kids don’t want you to find them, you can use FourSquare or Gowalla to meet up with your grown-up buddies instead.
- Redecorate: Let’s get to the real benefit of your empty nest: that spare room! The sooner you repurpose it, the less likely it is that your kids will boomerang back and settle in until they turn 40. My vote is for a home theater, but you might be happier with a craft room or a gym. Whatever your dream, the web can offer you lots of great ideas on how to get it done.
Have you got other suggestions for using the web to enjoy your empty nest? Questions about how social media can support other life passages? I’d love to hear from you.