It has been over 14 months since we moved our daughter to college, and although she is attending college in our home town, the effects of Empty Nest Syndrome hit me as hard as anyone! Yes, I do have the luxury of having a spontaneous lunch with her and the possibility of running into her around town, and she can drop by the house anytime. However it was still very difficult to not have her land at home every night. It’s something about missing out on her new and exciting adventure that gets the best of us!
Can this be a good thing?
Some parents are not affected by an Empty Nest. As a matter of fact, I’ve had parents tell me that they cannot wait for that time to come. They feel that they have done their jobs in raising their children and have big plans for their upcoming “free time!” Does this mean that they are bad parents? Absolutely not! Many parents have careers and are involved in clubs or organizations, so they are preoccupied and the emptiness of the house may not seem so drastic. They also may have prepared for an empty nest during the student’s last year of high school by talking to their child and preparing them for things that life may throw at them. Perhaps they have also been planning trips or developing new hobbies to look forward to when the student is gone from home.
Who is affected most?
Empty Nest Syndrome seems to affect mothers more so than fathers because this is typically a point in their lives where they may be going through other significant life events, such as taking care of elderly parents or going through menopause. However, men can and often times do experience a similar set of emotions that go along with moving that last child out of the house. Walking by that empty room or not having that daily communication can certainly seem unbearable at first.
What might you expect?
For those who have yet to experience Empty Nest Syndrome the feelings range anywhere from sadness and depression, to emptiness, feeling alone, a loss of purpose and often times being very emotional. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms in excess, you may consider seeking professional help. For the rest of you, I want you to know that it does get better! This is a phase in your life where you learn to lean on your friends and family. You need that supportive community in your life not only to act as a sounding board, but also to occupy your time and steer you in other directions. Building new friendships, rekindling your marriage, finding new hobbies, traveling or pursuing old career interests may be valuable things to focus on during your free time.
How will this impact the relationship with your child?
Being an “Empty Nester” is also a time to begin adjusting to your new role with your child. You are shifting from being a disciplinarian and caregiver to having a more adult relationship and friendship with them. You will certainly have to give them more privacy and allow them to make their own choices and mistakes, because there are many valuable lessons to be learned with their new found adulthood. Obviously, this new adult relationship won’t be fully enjoyed until your son or daughter becomes emotionally and financially independent, but your new role is to now guide and mentor this new independent person in your life so they are able to be successful.
You don’t have to love being an Empty Nester, but it does get easier over time, believe me! Now, my focus is on becoming a support system for my adult children. Some days it can be difficult, but trying to listen and not be judgmental, treating them with respect and not offering advice unless it’s asked for are great steps to take in making your life more enjoyable with your independent child.