Even though empty nest syndrome is not recognized as an emotional disorder, it is a very real condition that many parents experience when their child goes away to college. The experience can be harsher for parents dealing with an only child, whom they have seen every day until the parting day.
What Is Empty Nest Syndrome?
Empty nest syndrome is defined as the despair that many parents experience when their child goes away to college. Some parents probably start worrying about this day right from the first day of high school and may experience this syndrome in varying severities. Regardless of the severity, it can be a heart-wrenching experience, especially for individuals who have spent close to two decades of their lives being parents.
The common symptoms associated with the syndrome are sadness, depression, loneliness, a feeling of emptiness due to a sudden break from a busy schedule and overall anxiety about your child’s well-being.
The transition from having your child at home every day to having to wait for them until a long weekend or the holiday season can be very difficult to cope with. But there is some hope based on recent researches conducted on the subject. Older studies which showed that empty nest syndrome often led to an increase in alcoholism, depression and even strained relationships between the parents have been outnumbered by recent studies with more positive outcomes.
These show that parents have learned to cope better with the syndrome by turning it into a more positive experience. Many parents saw a considerable reduction in their workloads, lesser fights with their spouse and more time to explore personal interests.
Tips to Cope With Empty Nest Syndrome
The emotions that empty nesters go through are understandable, but it might be better both for the parents and the children if they learn to cope with it and deal with the symptoms strategically. Here are some tips to help you cope with and get over the empty nest syndrome:
Find a new role to play:
With the role of being a parent every day pushed to the background, it is time to find a new role to focus on. Whether you choose to be a volunteer at your local library or become more involved in your community’s activities, you’ll notice that your new role will slowly help you come out of the despair of not being near your child.
Give yourself more time:
Many parents, especially mothers rarely prioritize their needs. Take this opportunity to pick up long-forgotten hobbies, indulge in some self-care routines, get back to exercising regularly or even join some classes with your friends.
Spend time with your spouse:
Parenting can take up quite a big share of your time, so now that your day is not filled with drop-offs and pickups, school projects and baseball games, spend more time with your spouse. Try to travel more, tick off items from your bucket list and rekindle your relationship.
With more time on your hands, challenge yourself with a task that you’ve been dreading for ages. For instance, sign up for a marathon, find a job or lose weight.
While letting go of your children can be extremely painful, it is important to understand that regardless of how old your children are or where they move to, you’ll never stop being their parents. With this understanding, try and recover from the despair and allow yourself and your child to move forward with a happy and peaceful life.
Morin, A., & L. (n.d.). 5 Strategies for Coping With the Sadness Associated With Empty Nest Syndrome. Retrieved from https://www.verywellfamily.com/how-to-cope-with-empty-nest-syndrome-4163133
Tips for coping with an empty nest. (2018, April 13). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/empty-nest-syndrome/art-20047165