Empty Nest Syndrome: Coping with an Empty Nest

Empty Nest Syndrome is a common and often overwhelming feeling that results from the departure of the last child from home. Parents who have had children at home for 18 years or more face the challenge of adjusting to an empty house. It’s a time of transition for both the children and the parents, and it can be an emotional rollercoaster.

What is Empty Nest Syndrome?

Empty Nest Syndrome is a phenomenon that occurs when parents experience feelings of sadness and loneliness due to their child leaving home. Although it’s often associated with mothers, fathers can also experience Empty Nest Syndrome. The term ‘Empty Nest Syndrome’ describes the phase in a parent’s life when they have to come to terms with the fact that their children have grown up and left home. It’s a time when many parents feel a sense of loss, and they may struggle to find new purpose and meaning in their life.

Signs of Empty Nest Syndrome:

Empty Nest Syndrome can manifest in a number of ways. Here are five signs that you or someone you know might be experiencing it:

  • Feelings of sadness or depression
  • Loss of interest in activities or hobbies
  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Increased anxiety levels
  • Lack of motivation or energy

Causes of Empty Nest Syndrome:

Empty Nest Syndrome is often viewed as a stage that occurs in the natural course of life. Children grow up and leave home. However, there are also several factors that can contribute to Empty Nest Syndrome:

  • Parental identity: When children leave home, parents may feel a loss of identity. For many years, they have defined themselves as mothers or fathers, and now this part of their life is over.
  • The family dynamic: When a child leaves home, the family dynamic changes. The empty space can remind parents of how much they miss their child, and they may feel disconnected from their family.
  • Age: As parents age, they may experience an increased sense of their own mortality. The departure of their child can intensify these feelings.
  • Retirement: Parents may feel an increased sense of emptiness when they retire and no longer have the distraction of work.

Coping with Empty Nest Syndrome:

Empty Nest Syndrome is a challenging time, but there are several strategies that can help you cope:

  • Stay connected: Just because your child has left home, it doesn’t mean you can’t stay in touch. Regular phone calls, video chats and visits can help you feel connected.
  • Find new hobbies: Now is the perfect time to explore new activities that interest you. Learn a new skill, join a club, or take up a sport.
  • Exercise regularly: Exercise is a great stress reliever and can help combat depression and anxiety.
  • Stay positive: Seek out positive and supportive people and activities that make you happy. Surround yourself with friends and family who care about you.
  • Renew your relationship with your partner: Many parents focus on their children for so many years that they may have lost touch with their partner. Now that the children have left home, it’s time to renew your relationship with each other.

Seeking Professional Help:

If you’re struggling to cope with Empty Nest Syndrome, it’s okay to seek professional help. A therapist can help you work through your feelings and provide strategies to help you move on. Don’t hesitate to seek help if you need it.

Final Thoughts:

Empty Nest Syndrome is a challenging time for any parent who has to cope with the departure of their children. However, it’s important to remember that it’s a natural stage of life that affects many people. By staying positive, staying active, and maintaining a connection with your children, you’ll be able to cope with the changes and find new purpose and meaning in your life.

FAQs

What is Empty Nest Syndrome?

Empty Nest Syndrome refers to the feeling of grief and loneliness that parents experience when their children leave home for the first time, usually for college, work or marriage. It is a normal psychological response to a major life change that can affect parents in different ways.

What are the common symptoms of Empty Nest Syndrome?

Typical symptoms of Empty Nest Syndrome include feelings of sadness, loneliness, loss of purpose and identity, and fear of the future. Many parents may also experience physical symptoms such as fatigue, sleeping difficulties, or changes in appetite.

How can parents cope with Empty Nest Syndrome?

There are several ways parents can cope with Empty Nest Syndrome, including finding new hobbies or interests, reconnecting with their partner or other family members, seeking support from friends or a therapist, and exploring new career or personal goals. It’s important for parents to remember that this is a normal life transition and that it is a chance to focus on their own wellbeing and personal growth.


References

1. Lim, E., & Kim, Y. (2018). Predictors of Empty Nest Syndrome: The Moderating Effect of Resilience on Loneliness in Middle-Aged Women. Journal of Korean Academy of Nursing, 48(6), 671–681. doi: 10.4040/jkan.2018.48.6.671

2. He, X., Zhu, S., Hu, S., & Li, J. (2020). The Effect of Social Support on the Relationship between Parenting Styles and Empty Nest Syndrome in Chinese Elderly: A Cross-Sectional Study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(8), 2865. doi: 10.3390/ijerph17082865

3. Chen, Y., Liu, G., & Sun, Y. (2019). Prevalence and Correlates of Depressive Symptoms among Empty-Nest Elderly in China: Results from a National Study. Journal of Affective Disorders, 246, 415–421. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2018.12.107