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The Psychology Behind Empty Nest Syndrome

Updated on January 14, 2012

It's awfully quiet around here...

Empty Nest Syndrome is something that effects every parent eventually, on one level or another. A void has been created where the chattering, laughing, fighting, loving and cleaning up messes used to be.

No more pitter-patters, no more cries for mom or dad in the middle of a stormy night. It just seems too quiet, doesn't it?

Letting the kids finally leave home to find themselves is not easy no matter how much you may try to deny it. I know it's difficult, because our kids do a heck of a lot more for us parents then we like to admit, or often just don't realize.

Kids & Our Needs

Most of the time, the only thing on a parents mind is what their kids needs are, and how they can mostly easily and healthfully be met. I don't know about you, but I get very little time to stop and think about my own needs, lol.

Yet, when there are no more kids in the home, you've really got nothing but time left, and at least some of that time should be devoted to understanding just how valuable your kids have been to you, especially if you find yourself with the empty nest blues.

Human Needs Psych

The study of basic human needs suggests that there are six basic human needs that must be met in order for us to be happy, fulfilled and motivated. Without these emotional needs being met, we couldn't go on. The needs are:

  • Certainty
  • Variety
  • Significance
  • Connection (love)
  • Contribution
  • Growth

These needs are so essential to our survival, that we will do ANYTHING to fulfill them, even if that means filling them in negative ways. By becoming depressed about the temporary parental abandonment of your children, you're filling your needs in a negative way. Depression fills our need for certainty, variety, significance and connection, making it instantly addicting on an unconscious level.

Do you know why we get depressed when our kids leave home?

Human needs psychology states that if three or more of your needs are being met by one thing or person, you will become INSTANTLY addicted to that thing or person. You already know that empty nest depression is an instant addiction, but do you know why we instantly travel towards that negative need fulfiller when the kids fly out of the nest?

It's because our kids fulfill ALL SIX of our psychological human needs. That makes them one of the MOST addicting things you can find on earth. Our kids are everything to us, and even though it's nice to think it's just because we love them, it goes deeper than that.

Our kids provide us with the certainty that our legacy will go on. They give us the thrill variety or uncertainty from all their unpredictable antics. They fulfill our need for significance, because we are there parents, something no one else can be for them. Our kids never close their Connection to us, and love of unconditionally, no matter how many times we feel we might not deserve it. Your need for contribution is sated through your children, because they relied on you for just about everything. And through all the trials and tribulations you enjoyed with your children, you were able to grow and become more.

That's a lot of love and need fulfilling right there! No wonder your so sullen.There are only a handful of others things that could give you half as much as your kids do in terms of fulfillment. Who would have thought that our kids have such a profound effect on our well-being? After all that stress that made your hairs turn gray and gave you raccoon eyes, those kids were really just giving us just what we needed.

Basically, the reason we develop "empty nest syndrome", is because it feels like we've just lost the person (or persons) who fulfilled us the most. On a conscious level, you may even be aware of just how silly it is to feel so hurt, when the kids are just a phone call or email away, but your subconscious doesn't think in those terms. It wants the instant gratification of little troublemakers running around the house.

In Summary,

On a psychological level, Empty Nest Syndrome is caused by the loss of one of the greatest sources of fulfillment ever known. It's a big loss, but not one you have to revel in. The first step is through understanding, which is what I hope I've provided you with in this hub. The next step is finding other sources of meeting your needs, a topic I'll cover in future hubs, otherwise you might find yourself a kin to the other resentful, bitter and depressed parents who let their subconscious get the better of them.


Submit a Comment
  • BizGenGirl profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Lake Stevens

    That is fantastic advice @GreatParenting! Thank you for sharing =)

    @LashHeart, whats the hardest part for you? What do you miss most?

  • Lastheart profile image

    Maria Magdalena Ruiz O'Farrill 

    7 years ago from Borikén the great land of the valiant and noble Lord

    I went through this empty nest...I am trying to be strong...but it just hurts.

  • greatparenting profile image


    7 years ago from philadelphia, pa and corolla, nc

    All three of my daughters are grown and out of the house. I didn't feel as sad as I thought I might. I think the key is this -- while you are raising kids you must maintain a life of your own. Don't give up everything to be a parent. Work at the balance of keeping in touch with the things that made your life worthwhile before you had children. If you don't give up your whole life to raise kids, you'll have something to hold onto when they leave.


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