If you’re a parent, and one or more of your children have recently left the house for the first time, you may be feeling a bit lost, disoriented, and unsure about what to do with your life.
Now that your children are independent and living without you, what should you do?
In this article, we’ll explore the details about “Empty Nest Syndrome,” including what it is, why it happens, signs that you may be suffering from this issue, and our tips for overcoming it.
What Is Empty Nest Syndrome? Why Does It Happen?
Empty nest syndrome is a feeling of helplessness, confusion, grief and loneliness which parents often suffer from when their children leave the house for the first time. While it is not a clinical condition, it can have serious effects on your mental health, happiness, and lifestyle.
Children leaving the house is a natural event, of course – and part of life. But this doesn’t mean that it’s any easier for parents to deal with. Full-time parents, such as stay-at-home moms and dads, are particularly vulnerable to empty nest syndrome, because they are very close to their children – and have spent so much of their lives caring for them, meeting their needs, and helping them with their day-to-day tasks.
Empty nest syndrome happens because your priorities have to shift once again, after your children have left the house. When your children were born, your #1 priority became their care, upbringing, and personal well-being. Your needs were set aside – and you likely focused on your kids, above all else.
But now, once your children have left the house, that sense of purpose may disappear – leaving you feeling lost, and like your life no longer has a “goal” or “objective.” This makes sense, of course. After dedicating nearly two decades to the care of a child, it can be hard to re-adjust, and go back to a day-to-day, child-free lifestyle.
Signs You May Have Empty Nest Syndrome
Any parent can suffer from empty nest syndrome. Not sure if it’s affecting you? Here are a few of the most common signs that you may be suffering from empty nest syndrome.
- Depression – While the depression from empty nest syndrome is not nearly as serious as clinical depression, it can still affect your day-to-day life, causing you to lack motivation, feel lethargic, lose your appetite and more.
- Loss of a sense of purpose – If you feel “lost” and like you no longer have a purpose in the home, you may be suffering from empty nest syndrome.
- Feelings of rejection – Feelings of sadness and rejection are common among those whose children have chosen to leave home, even though this is a normal part of life.
- Stress and worry about your child – If you find yourself obsessing about how your child is doing, their choices, and their lifestyle, you may be suffering from empty nest syndrome.
- Anxiety about your child’s’ welfare – Parents suffering from this issue often are anxious about their child. Did we prepare them for life? Will they succeed in their career? Have we given them the moral basis they need to make good choices? Some anxiety is natural, of course, but obsessive anxiety about your child’s welfare and life is not normal.
- Feeling distressed or easily aggravated – If you find yourself snapping at others, feeling aggravated by normal situations, and otherwise in a poor mood, this is a common sign of empty nest syndrome.
- Not knowing what to do with your time – Whereas your schedule was filled with tasks for your children – for years – now, you lack things to do. You sit around during the evenings and on weekends, wondering what you can do with all of this extra time.
Our Top Tips For Overcoming Empty Nest Syndrome, And Adjusting To Your New Life
If you recognized one – or all – of the above symptoms, you may be suffering from empty nest syndrome. But there’s good news. This issue is usually fleeting, and you can overcome it and adjust to your new life with a few simple tips.
- Keep in contact with your kids – Thanks to texting, Skype, phone calls, Facebook and more, it’s easy to keep in touch with your kids in a non-obtrusive way. Doing so can help alleviate feelings of stress, anxiety, and worries about how their life is going.
- Pursue your own hobbies and interests – Restore that classic car that’s been in your garage for a decade. Get back into knitting. Start working out more – find a hobby or interest that can occupy your time, and provide you with pleasure and a sense of satisfaction.
- Be open, and discuss your grief – Talk with your spouse, friends, colleagues, or even a professional therapist about your grief, how you feel, and your mental state. Sharing your grief in the appropriate setting can help you move on, and feel better about being an “empty nest.”
- Keep a journal – Journaling is a powerful way to release negative thoughts and feelings, and track the improvement of your mental state after becoming an empty-nest.
- Consider going back to work – If you were a full-time parent, consider going back to work. Find a job you’re passionate about, and you’ll be able to occupy your time effectively, and bring in some extra income.
- Rekindle your relationship – Studies have shown that, on average, couples with children can spend only about one-third of the time alone together, compared to before they had kids. After your kids have left the house, you have the ability to focus on your relationship – and strengthen it during your “Golden Years.”
Know How To Recognize And Deal With “Empty Nest” Syndrome
Hopefully, this guide has provided you with the tools you need to overcome the departure of your children from your house – and will be useful as you enter the next stage of your life. Empty nester syndrome is a natural part of raising a kid, and with the right techniques, it’s easy to rid yourself of the grief, negative feelings, and loss of purpose associated with this condition.