The kids have moved out and are ready to begin their lives as adults, and learning how to get through empty nest syndrome can be challenging. That feeling of loneliness and emptiness in the home can start to creep in.
It’s completely normal to feel sadness when the little one’s leave or feel like you don’t know how to fill the time. Sometimes marital tension can even increase through this transitional phase. But let’s look at what it is and how you can move through this stage of life more effortlessly.
What Is Empty Nest Syndrome?
Although our children will always need us in some capacity, it’s less tangible when they’ve flown the nest. It begins to raise questions, such as who am I outside of being a parent? What do I do now? How will my once child, now adult, cope in this sometimes harsh world?
But remember, your parenting never truly stops. It’s just turned from a full-time position to a part-time job. So they will still come back in need of help, advice, consoling, or monetary help. As parents, we can support them from afar, lend a helping hand when they need it.
Now it’s their turn to make mistakes, learn from them, and grow even more.
Symptoms of Empty Nest Syndrome
- Purpose Feels Over: When our children leave, it can feel like our main purpose of raising amazing humans is gone.
- Sadness & Depression: Our emotions can become overwhelming at times, as that bitter-sweet feeling arises.
- Lack of Control: We are no longer in control of our children’s lives, which can seem daunting at first.
- Irritability & Stress: We can become irritable with our partner or suffer stress when we don’t hear from the kids in a while.
- Poor Sleep Quality: Stress can affect us physically, like losing sleep, headaches, stomach issues.
- Anxiety: As they say, it’s a parents job to worry, but sometimes that anxiety can build up just after they move.
Psychology Behind Empty Nest Syndrome
Although parents may feel some of the symptoms above, it’s generally not as bad as parents fear empty nest to be. Especially if you have a good relationship with your child or children, then in some cases, the relationship will flourish even more with time apart.
It’s best to view it as a transition into becoming independent for both the parents and the child. A time for parents to be supportive from a distance while gaining time for themselves back. It may seem strange or quiet at first, but soon enough, you will love the extra space, the quiet, and the ability to do what you want again.
If you’re in conflict with your child, it might be best to address any issues before leaving. It can make the transition more difficult if there’s a conflict between you, as you won’t be able to reach out to them or vice versa.
How to Cope With Empty Nest Syndrome
Although an empty nest isn’t as big a transition as when your child enters middle school, it can still be quite challenging for some. Here are some tips on coping with empty nest syndrome and making the transition smoother.
CommunicationBegin by clearly communicating with both your children and your partner (if you’re not a single parent). Explain the emotions you’re feeling, and clearly state what would help you through this transition.
You can ask your child if you can set up weekly phone calls or texts to keep in touch. Also, if you begin to become frustrated with your partner. Try to have a sit-down discussion about the changes and what you can both do to move through the transition together.
Bonding TimeOnce the children are gone, it can be more challenging to carve out time to bond. If your children are nearby, you can plan a dinner once a month together. If they’ve moved abroad, then downloading Zoom or WhatApp and having video calls when you’re all able to is a great way to catch up and see them.
Just because your children are moving out, it doesn’t mean that you can’t make time for each other. There are always ways to keep in contact outside of Birthdays and Christmas.
Attention ShiftDuring empty nest syndrome, many parents can start to shift their attention away from their child’s needs to a whole new path. For example, you now have the opportunity to travel, take up hobbies, new career goals, or spend time with friends.
Although you will always be a parent, your attention can now shift back to what you want in life. The focus can now come back to what your wants and needs are. Don’t be afraid or feel selfish if you want to explore the world or get creative in shaping your new life the way you want. Of course, your kids would love to see you happy and enjoying yourself.
SupportThere are support groups or mental health professionals who can help if the transition feels too much to bear. For example, if feelings of depression are surfacing and you notice you’re taking less care of yourself, then now is the time to put yourself first.
I repeat, it is not selfish to take care of yourself during this time. So, if you feel you need extra support, check legitimate websites and charities and seek the additional support you need.
Meditation for Mental HealthAnother way to take care of yourself as you learn to get through empty nest syndrome is meditation. The act of mindfulness helps create space in understanding our emotions better and cultivating better self-awareness. That way, we can see when frustrations or other emotions arise, we can better communicate them.
One meditation you can do as you read this is to feel your feet on the ground or chair. Even if they’re crossed or up on the couch, just feel your feet. Notice the temperature; are they warm or not? Are they relaxed? Then become aware of your body, notice any sensations that pass through the body.
There’s no need to name the sensations in your mind; just aware of them. Next, feel your entire body, and become aware of your breathing. Again, there’s no need to change the way you breathe, just notice I am breathing. Lastly, without moving your head, become aware of the objects around you. Again without trying to name what you see, just be aware of the objects in the space around you.
Mindfulness reconnects us into the body, space around us, and ultimately the present moment. You can always come back to this meditation or find incredible videos online that guide you through meditative and mindfulness practices.
What Does Life Look Like Now?
Although not super professional, the phrase that came to mind was one I heard a lot whilst making my way through Thailand.
Same same, but differentYour responsibilities are still the same; your life isn’t changing for the most part. The big change that occurs is your time and focus is now on what you want. Your day-to-day will look different if you’re no longer looking after your children but for yourself. Which is the most challenging thing to learn when figuring out how to get through empty nest syndrome.
That means you can now focus on your career, your chores, your activities, and your wellness. We can’t tell you what that looks like to you. Instead, we would ask you what you want to spend your time doing?
A Life for You, or You & Your Partner
The likelihood is you weren’t a perfect parent, as there’s no such thing. But, if you loved your child or children, then you did a phenomenal job regardless. The proof of that is that you were able to let them go, allowing them to grow into adults.
Now it’s time to focus on your relationship with yourself and with your partner once again, and how to overcome empty nest syndrome. This is an exciting time. You can look back at the nappies changed, the stress of getting them into the right schools, the countless nuggets of advice given, and the love shared. Also, you can look ahead to the future possibilities of grandchildren, weddings, them getting the career they want.
Lastly, you can now start your new life, which your children will always be a part of, but that is centred on bringing yourselves happiness again.
Empty Nest but Beaming With Pride
You did it! Although it may be scary and an emotional transition throughout empty nest syndrome, you should at least pat yourself on the back. I know we’re always proud of our children no matter what, but you deserve some of that pride too.
They’ll be back before you know it to tell you all about their life. No matter how much time passes, they’ll never stop loving you. So don’t be afraid to shout off the rooftops about how proud you are of them because they may not say it, but they’re proud of you too.