Loneliness and Empty Nesting in the Middle Years with Dr. Jim Burns

Episode 02

We’re back in the middle of life with another installment of our “For the Love of the Middle” series. This episode marks the return of the amazing Dr. Jim Burns to the show. He is an author and founder of HomeWord, a non-profit organization aimed at helping families and individuals strengthen their relationships. Dr. Burns has over three decades of experience as a speaker and is the author of books such as “Life With Your Adult Children” and “Finding Joy in the Empty Nest”.  

With his typical humor and self-awareness, Dr. Burns draws from his own experiences as a father in the middle of life–and also shares insights from his vast experience working with families and individuals. In this interview he touches on topics like loneliness in older adults, coping with post-divorce friendships, and enabling versus helping your adult children.

Join Jen and Dr. Jim Burns as they discuss: 

  • Navigating the loneliness felt by those 50 and older and how to prepare for that early on.
  • Finding meaningful friendships as a single person in a coupled world.
  • Giving advice to adult children without sounding critical.
  • When helping becomes enabling with adult children.
  • Easing the burden of the Empty Nest by investing in hobbies and community.

Jen and Dr. Burns offer practical advice for maintaining and cultivating adult friendships and how to move through the challenges of parenting adult children with grace.

Episode Transcript

Hey everybody. Jen Hatmaker here, your host of the For the Love podcast. Welcome to the show. We have just kicked off a new series that we’re all really excited about, and it’s called For the Love of the Middle. And it just occurred to us that we wanted to host a series of conversations about this sort of place, mainly really kind of where I am. And so many of you are right in the middle of life. So we have a variety of new things we’re dealing with. Our parents are getting older. We’re in a different phase of our career. Our bodies are doing some things that we’re not accustomed to, and they’re changing. And our kids are growing up and in a lot of our cases launching, they’re leaving, they’re moving out. And there’s just so many new things to deal with all at once.

And it’s hard to find a lot of instructions on it. It’s if it’s hard to find community around it or conversations. And so I’m gonna go ahead and apologize mamas to you right now, cuz we’re gonna, we’re gonna hit the feels a little on today’s episode. We’re gonna be talking about a little thing called empty nesting today. And I don’t know how you feel about that. I think we’re kind of all over the place on it, but a lot of you are going to be kind of choked up just thinking about it because look, we, we gave their, these monsters our all right, we gave them a couple of decades or more. And so obviously I am moved. I’m already in this phase.

I’ve got four of them out of the house. A couple of them are still in college, those sort of middle. And I’ve got one left at home. And I feel all over the place about it. Sometimes I’m like, look at ’em, go. I’m proud. I’m excited. It’s so fun to watch ’em fly. Sometimes I’m like, it’s lonely and weird in this house, and I miss the teen energy and I miss all the chatter and I miss all their friends. Sometimes I worry because they’re also in a young adult stage where they’re not making all the decisions I want them to make. They’re not following the script, right? I’m just all over the place. And sometimes I’m like, this is awesome. Like, I’ve been, you know, I did a completely empty nest trial last semester when Remy was in Spain. And so I didn’t have anybody live here for four months.

And there are parts of it that I loved. And so it’s just, I just don’t know, you know? I just don’t know. It depends on what day you ask me how I feel about this. So whether you’re on the cusp of empty nesting or you’re in it, or you’ve got a few years before it hits, um, whatever. We are gonna chat about some things today that I hope will serve you as you move into next phase. Empty nesting is not talked about enough as a major life shift. And it is major. I mean, major look, we talk about college and marriages and kids and retirement and all this stuff like onboarding kids, and that’s all true and well and good, but, but kids leaving like the empty nest is just not spoken about enough. I, I don’t know if we avoid talking about it because we feel anxious around it or we’re sad about it, or we’re worried about it, I’m not sure.

But here we are. And so it’s this huge moment that we’re ill prepared for because we’ve spent their entire lives nurturing them, protecting them, and raising them and it is weird. We don’t have any muscle memory for them moving out of this house and making their own choices. It is bizarre, right? So I love my guest for this conversation. Um, for those of you who might not know Dr. Burns or remember him from his first time on this show back in 2018 during our parenting series, back then, let me tell you about this incredible man. He is the president of Homeward, which is a nonprofit organization where he and his team share advice and wisdom that really help guide families and parents and kids through all phases of life. Um, the last time he was on, he talked about how to be a parent to your adult children, but also how to not parent as much. Just before my kids were on the cusp of all that. So I was like starving for all of his advice and his words really stayed with me and have been wildly instructive as I navigate my life with all my newly minted young adults. Dr. Burn speaks to thousands and thousands of people around the whole entire globe. Every year he’s got more than 2 million resources in print in 20 different languages. I’m telling you, he’s credentialed. Now his main areas of expertise include speaking about things like marriage, confident parenting, empowering our kids all along the way at all points in the spectrum and becoming healthy leaders. And these are things that I think we all aspire to really. Um, you’ve probably heard of some of his most popular books, uh, doing Life with Your Adult Children, which we talked about last time and one that’s gonna be super relevant to our discussion today, which is finding joy in the Empty Nest. Jim and his wife Kathy live in OC and Southern California, they’ve got three grown daughters who went off and got married and have their own babies. So he doesn’t just know what he’s talking about as a professional, but he knows what he is talking about as a dad. So if you haven’t already, go back and hit play on our last episode. Um, if you need more than what you hear today, because he is gold, um, that one was called by the way, parenting through all stages, when to hold on and when to let go. And it’s all just good, good, good, practical, meaningful stuff. I enjoy him so much. He’s delightful. I love his energy, his warmth, his compassion, and his wisdom. So you guys please enjoy this conversation with the absolutely wonderful Dr. Jim Burns.


Mentioned in this Episode: 


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Dr. Burns Books: Finding Joy in the Empty Nest, Doing Life with Your Adult Children


New Life Live

Parenting Through All Stages: When To Hold On & When To Let Go with Dr. Jim Burns — on the For the Love podcast


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