Worried About Empty Nest Syndrome?

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Empty nest syndrome is an extreme feeling of loss, grief, sadness, loneliness, purposelessness, insecurity, endless worry, boredom felt by parents whose children spread their wings and fly to follow higher studies, career, their own relationships, marriage, etc leaving the nest empty for parents. It is a psychological condition and not a clinical condition or illness.  On the one hand, parents want their children to grow up and lead independent lives and on the other hand, they feel depressed and purposeless when children depart. This transition is often bittersweet or emotionally challenging for the parents.

Here are the five most common signs of this syndrome:

  • Feeling Purposeless

When children are around, the life of parents is very busy and exhaustive due to day-to-day parenting activities. They keep on hovering around their children. The majority of the time mothers largely define themselves by parenting roles while their children live at home. They get so attached to their identity as a parent that when children leave them, they feel goalless.

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  • Frustration Over Letting Go

During parenting, parents can become possessive and authoritative. Few parents start taking children as their property, controlling each and every part of their life. As soon as the children grow up, they have their own social circle that they would want to hang out with, and sometimes when this happens parents can feel left out. Parents can feel a plethora of emotions when they see their parental role & control reduced in their child’s life.

  • Emotional Distress About Future

Parents becoming empty nesters burst into tears at times remembering the old days when the house was full of laughter and noise. They get scared with the thought that they are growing old and ghosts of loneliness start traumatizing them.

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  • Marital Stress

Many couples put their relationship on hold while raising a child and focus solely on the children. Realignment after their children's departure becomes difficult and challenging for them. They are anxious to reconnect themselves with life as a couple.

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  • Anxiety About Your Children

It is natural for a parent to be anxious about their children's safety and well-being. What isn't natural is for a parent to be highly concerned about their child's well-being, checking their social media accounts and calling them many times a day.

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How to deal with Empty Nest Syndrome?

We are wired to be protective of our children, so we are bereft when they leave us. Here are a few ways in which parents can cope healthily with Empty Nest Syndrome. Understanding more about empty nest syndrome will help understand this phase of life and accept this situation more wisely.

  • Accept The Change

Accept that your feelings are normal. It is perfectly okay feeling loneliness, emptiness, and goallessness as a mother or a father. Realize that your role as a parent has changed from a parent of a child to a parent of an adult child but it has not come to an end. Change has to come which one should accept with grace. Remember that these challenging times will not last forever and with time everyone develops acceptance for this transition. You get used to your child being in charge of their own life and you begin to develop a new sense of normal in your life. Have a realization that you have done your job as a parent, and now it’s time to enjoy life with all the freedom and opportunities that it can provide.

  • Carve Your New Identity

In order to overcome Empty Nest Syndrome, it is essential to redirect the attention towards the activities that might make you feel engaged. To cope with this transition, create some hobbies, meet up with old friends or relatives which you have put on hold while taking care of children. Get involved in physical activities like outdoor games, yoga, meditation, gym, club, etc. You can think about taking a part-time job or some charitable activities. You can grow spiritually also by reading motivating books, listening to videos, etc.

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  • Keep In Touch With The Children

You can continue to be emotionally connected to your children even when you live apart through phone calls, emails, texts, or video chats. Ensure that these communications tools don’t make you emotionally dependent or intrude on the privacy of children. Hence, schedule a time frame that allows both to maintain a close relationship without disturbing each other’s privacy. Beware that you don’t become a helicopter parent.

  • Seek Support

Share your feelings with loved ones and friends whose children have left home and see how they cope-up with emptiness.

  • It's A New Beginning For Both You And Your Child.

One should digest the natural fact that everybody is on their own journey. If children have embarked on their new journey, you also have started a new chapter in your life. We should take it positively as a part of the evolution process which everyone has to go through. Imagine how bad it will be if your child doesn’t grow and remain dependent on you. One should not fear about this transition in life, instead, one should be excited to welcome new change. Focus on what you can do to help your child succeed when he or she does leave home. For yourself make a journal and write down how you feel or write about what you are thankful for. This exercise will make you feel more positive and inspire a sense of gratitude. Gradually you will come to terms with the loneliness and emptiness.

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  • Rekindle The Romantic Relationship

Although the struggle with grief and loneliness is a big challenge, it also opens the opportunity to spend time with each other, as husband and wife. Recent studies suggest that an empty nest might reduce work and family conflicts and can provide partners with many other benefits. Parents have a new opportunity to reconnect with each other, improve the quality of their marriage and rekindle interests for which they previously might not have had time.

How to Prepare For An Empty Nest?

You can prepare yourself in advance for this new phase of life and explore new roles. Create your new identity. Here are some steps to take.

1. Make a list of all of your current roles besides being a parent. This could include roles such as spouse, child, friend, employee, and volunteer, etc. 

2. Go through your list and think about which of those roles you'd like to expand. Maybe you want to work on your career or spend more time with your friends or spouse.

3. Don't wait until your children leave home to start exploring your interests. hobbies and new roles. Think of a list of new interests or hobbies you enjoyed before you had children. Look for local groups, clubs, or meetups that can help you find community. Your new activities and interests will help make your adjustment to your new life quicker and easier.

When Should I Seek Help?

If a parent is experiencing depressive symptoms, crying excessively, or if daily life and work are impeded for more than two weeks then professional help with a therapist is recommended.