31/03/2014 08:17 BST | Updated 29/05/2014 06:59 BST

Making Friends as an Emptynester

It's a strange feeling, when your children leave home. All that energy that has been put into child rearing; all the nappy changing, weaning, taxiing around, exams, teenage angst has suddenly ended, and those little people who needed so much guidance are suddenly all grown up and venturing out into the big wide world.

And what happens to you? Suddenly on your own again, with the disappearance of all the family chores, it can be a frightening prospect. All of a sudden you have to accept that your child rearing days are over. You have to adapt to life solely with your partner or on your own, and you have to think about what you are going to do with all that spare time, previously taken up with family activities.

You may be looking forward to such an exciting and exhilarating opportunity, or you might find it all rather daunting. Whichever way you look at it, there is no doubt, it is a life-changing episode in your life.

Some of you will take the bull by the horns and immediately throw yourself into your newfound freedom, taking up art, singing, gardening, travelling the world or whatever else takes your fancy.

Others, however, may find it more difficult. In the maze of children and family commitments, you may have lost some old friends along the way. You may have lost some confidence and feel nervous about pushing yourself out there and taking up new hobbies. You may be feeling unsure about the route that your life will take, now that your offspring have left home.

So what do you do when you are looking for new friends, but don't feel confident about walking into a new club and striking up a conversation? How do you get into that local social scene where you want to meet people just like you? Where do you meet other women of the same age and stage of life?

For everyone apart from the ultra-confident, it is difficult to walk into an art class and strike up a conversation, it is difficult to join the local cycling club, when everyone seems to be younger and fitter than you, it is difficult to push yourself forward and get yourself noticed.

But you don't have to. You don't have to become the life and soul of the party. You don't have to transform yourself into a super-confident person with lots of jokes and tales to tell. You may not believe it, but not everyone is so keen on that ultra-confident person. They may secretly find them rather cocky, rather full of themselves, and believe it or not, rather boring. And underneath that bravado, I bet there is a person with insecurities just like you and me.

Firstly, start by writing a list of what you would like to do with your newfound freedom. What have you secretly fancied doing over all these years, but have never had the time to do it? Have you always fancied playing golf, taking up bell ringing, or learning to sew? Have you always wanted to walk a long distance path or do some volunteering? Would you like to see more films but have no-one to go with? Write a list of all your dreams, some will be achievable, some will be just that - dreams... Some will be easy to achieve in the next few weeks, some may be more long term aims that require money and planning.

Once you have a plan, it will be easier to work out what to do next. And once you have a plan, you can begin to research how to achieve it. You can find out which art class or choir you would like to attend, and sign up for it. You can join the local gym or golf club, you can pop into your local library or voluntary organisation to find out about volunteering at the local animal sanctuary.

Or get a dog. You could get fit and make friends at the same time, as dog walkers are always chatting to each other on their daily walks.

There are lots of ways to make new friends. Just get out there and don't be fearful. Walking into a room full of people can be daunting, but people are usually friendly and welcoming. Go along quietly at the start, see how things work, identify the people you like the look of and over a few weeks try and sit next to them, strike up a conversation over the coffee break, just take things steady and don't be too pushy. Be friendly, smile and not too needy. Be yourself and people will come to you.