It’s that time of the year: high school students making their college decisions, moving out and starting their independent lives away from home. Many parents may start to experience the Empty Nest Syndrome – that feeling of sadness and loss when their children grow and up and “leave the nest.” Despite the name, Empty Nest Syndrome is not a diagnosis and does not require clinical treatment. It is simply a name that characterizes what so many parents experience at this point in their lives.
Empty Nest syndrome may occur in both males and females, although it’s most common among full-time parents, parents who have difficulty dealing with separation and change, parents who are also dealing with a change or their own, and finally, those who feel their child is unprepared for an independent life.
The symptoms of Empty Nest Syndrome can be compared to those of mild depression: a sense of loss and loneliness, sadness and longing. Some people also experience anxiety and worry, which can bring on extra stress in their daily lives. Another symptom that is less common but still possible is a sense of guilt over not having spent enough time with your children or as a family.
Since Empty Nest Syndrome is not a clinical diagnosis, medical treatment is not necessary to cope with it. Instead, we encourage parents and family members to be supportive and stay in touch as much as possible. With technology growing faster than ever, both parents and children can connect as often as needed.
Focusing on yourself, your hobbies self-actualization is another way to avoid the Empty nest syndrome. Oftentimes parents, especially stay-at-home ones, dedicate most of their time and interest to their children. We recommend shifting your attention to your hobbies (either renewing old ones or taking up new ones), focusing on your relationships with your family and friends, and finally, enjoying some “alone” time.
Another important note on coping with Empty Nest Syndrome is numerous scientific studies have proven that marriage dynamics change when a couple has children. Things like new economic constraints and the abundance of household duties may take away the time (and energy) from your relationship. So when your children begin grazing their own path and not take up as much of your personal time, work on reigniting your relationship with your significant other. Travel, go out, spend time together – whatever you feel like doing with your partner will set you on the right path.
Finally, seek support. Oftentimes, it’s difficult for someone to tell if something is wrong unless they are told directly. Communicate to your loved ones about your feelings and spend some quality time together. Remember, Empty Nest Syndrome is only temporary, so why not use it as an opportunity to focus on yourself?