We’ve all heard of the phrase “empty nest,” but did you know it’s also a syndrome?
Empty nest is the phrase coined to describe when all your children leave home. The syndrome portion involves depression, feelings of rejection, loss of purpose, stress, worry and anxiety (Wikipedia).
Here’s some research on the topic:
“Parents who experience empty nest syndrome often question whether or not they have prepared their child to live on his or her own. Some often feel rejected over the belief their child does not need them anymore. Others still feel a sense of loss of purpose. They may question their purpose because raising, parenting, and disciplining their children is no longer their primary role in life. Mothers, often the primary caregivers, are more likely than fathers to experience empty nest syndrome though research has shown that some fathers expressed feeling unprepared for the emotional transition accompanied with their child leaving home and guilt over lost opportunities to be more involved in their children’s lives before they left home.” — Wikipedia
“Although you might actively encourage your children to become independent, the experience of letting go can be painful. You might find it difficult to suddenly have no children at home who need your care. You might miss being a part of your children’s daily lives — as well as the constant companionship. You might also worry intensely about your children’s safety and whether they’ll be able to take care of themselves on their own. You might struggle with the transition if your last child leaves the nest a little earlier or later than you expected — or at a time different from when you did.” — Mayo Clinic
The good news is, according to several websites, is that Empty Nest Syndrome is survivable.
One mother got weepy when she passed soccer practice the first time after her child went off to college, but, “Suddenly she and her husband were going on impromptu dates and getting together with friends. And Shure, a family therapist, threw herself into editing a clinical treatment book—something she would never have time for if the girls were still home” (Oprah.com).
Here are some tips on coping with Empty Nest Syndrome from the Mayo Clinic.
- Accept the timing. Avoid comparing your child’s timetable to your own personal experience. Instead, focus on what you can do to help your child succeed when he or she does leave home.
- Keep in touch. You can continue to be close to your children even when you live apart. Make an effort to maintain regular contact through visits, phone calls, emails, texts or video chats.
- Seek support. If you’re having a difficult time dealing with an empty nest, lean on loved ones and other close contacts for support. Share your feelings. If you feel depressed, consult your doctor or a mental health provider.
- Stay positive. Thinking about the extra time and energy you might have to devote to your marriage or personal interests after your last child leaves home might help you adapt to this major life change.
I believe the key is to embrace the life ahead of you and celebrate the journeys your children will take.
I’m making my list of projects and adventures right now.