Every parent wants nothing more than see their child grow up and become independent. However, when your last child has finally left the house, there can be a host of mixed emotions. Some parents are relieved to finally have the house to themselves and have one less mouth to feed. Others feel an intense sadness at the departure of their child.
This sadness is known as a phenomenon called empty nest syndrome. People who have empty nest syndrome recognize the need for their child to move out, but they still struggle with letting them go.
Empty nest syndrome can occur while your child is planning to move out or right after they do so. It most commonly happens whenever a child graduates from high school or college or when they get their first major job.
Parents generally miss having the role of caregiver, or they miss the companionship that being in their children’s daily lives brought them. Some are even concerned with their children’s safety and their ability to protect themselves. Whichever concern they have, parents usually experience a deep loss of purpose.
These feelings are completely normal. It is not easy to see someone you have raised, protected, and bonded with for about two decades leave permanently. However, empty nest syndrome often goes unchecked due to how common it is for children to leave home at a certain age, so not managing the negative emotions that come with it can lead to some serious problems.
If not handled correctly, empty nest syndrome can also prompt one or both parents to experience another phenomenon called a mid-life crisis. This is when a major event in middle age causes someone to develop an unbalanced view of their identity and self-confidence. Past studies have suggested that it can leave parents more vulnerable to clinical depression as well as alcoholism as a means of coping.
However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s some tips on how to healthily cope with empty nest syndrome.
Keep in contact with your child.
This doesn’t mean the end of your relationship with your child. This is simply the next stage. You shouldn’t be blowing up their phone with excessive calls and messages, but make it a goal with your child to have at least one conversation a day at a time your schedule permits. You should also make plans to spend time with your child in person.
Fill your calendar.
Realize that you can’t be around your child like you used to and be sure to keep busy by planning activities and events. Have a ballroom class you always wanted to go to? Do it. Need to clean out the garage? Now’s the time. Want to remodel the house? You won’t have your child in the way.
Find a good support system.
Keep family and trusted friends around you to have a safe space to vent your feelings. Sometimes all we need is a listening ear, a comforting touch, and a voice of reason.
Accentuate the positive.
Focus on the benefits that come with a child moving out of the house: more time, more energy for other things, and a chance to reconnect with your significant other.