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When The Kids Leave Home/Go To College - Preparing For Empty Nest Syndrome

Updated on April 14, 2013

The Empty Nest Syndrome

The Empty Nest Syndrome refers to a feeling of sadness or loneliness that parents or guardians may feel when their child/children leave home. Events such as leaving for college, pursuing a career, marriage, or simply just finding a place of their own, can leave parents with a feeling of emptiness in their lives. Without a little thought preparation in advance, it can be devastating to some.

Common Symptoms of Empty Nest Syndrome:

  • Loss of identity / purpose in life
  • Worry, stress, or anxiety over the welfare of their child
  • Feelings of rejection from their child
  • Guilt over how much time you wish you may had spent with your child
  • Depression - One must be careful of belittling their empty nest feelings before they turn into a serious depression problem

Starting new projects around the house that you have never had time for can be a great way to get your mind of your recent family change
Starting new projects around the house that you have never had time for can be a great way to get your mind of your recent family change
Revive any current partner relationship by enjoying new hobbies, even trips together
Revive any current partner relationship by enjoying new hobbies, even trips together

It is important to try and control your direction of thinking, your outlook on things, as the time you once spent caring for your child belongs to you again. Although this will feel strange and you may feel a little lost at first, it is important for you to try and redirect your focus back onto yourself.

Before your child leaves, start preparing by making a list of the things you may want to do, including any hobbies, house fix-ups, books or courses that you've put off doing because of your previous lack of time. Do something nice for yourself. Maybe take a mini vacation.

Revive your other relationships. Many married people find that after the children leave, they have a difficult time adjusting to being a couple again. Try to start focusing on your relationship by arranging dates, making social plans together or by engaging in activities you both enjoyed at one time before the kids arrived.

Start re-connecting with friends and family that you may have drifted apart with due to your busy schedules. Doing this 'before' your child leaves can make the change less stressful once it actually occurs.

I am so glad I started to research this dynamic time in the life of a parent, as I am slowly fearing what comes after the next year of my life with my daughter. She will be a senior in high-school and just the thought of her moving out to go to a college is tearing me apart. But I really do think that early preparation, both mental and tactical, is going to make some difference in how bad I let my emotions take over.

Empty Nest & Depression

If you have or had prior struggles with depression in any form, it may be a good idea to see your doctor or mental health specialist at this time. Empty nest syndrome is recognized as a real cause for concern and special care. Especially since many middle-aged women who have kids moving out are near the very difficult time of 'Menopause' as well. As a single mom who has battled depression, an unrealistic closeness with my daughter, and some hormonal struggles as well, I am willing to try anything to stay on top of this yet another new challenge.

Another tip I think can make a big difference once your child is gone, is to use this new phase of your parent/child relationship to connect in ways you may have never had the opportunity before. For example...phone calls, texting, emails, mailed letters and care-packages, can all be new forms of bonding that can actually refresh your relationship with your new-found 'adult' child. The more effort you make in keeping in touch will pay-off, so long as you do not let them see you fall apart, or become too overly emotional. Expressing how much you miss them should be short and sweet. After all, your child may have their own anxiety over their new-found adulthood, and they are going through many adjustments just the same.

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