Coping with ‘Empty Nest Syndrome’
By: Sarah Willoughby, LCSW-R
It’s the time of year when many students are leaving for college. With this can come mixed emotions, both for the student as well as the parents. It can be a fun, exciting, scary, and sad experience. Having an ‘empty nest’ is a life stage where all children have left the home. The term ‘empty-nest syndrome’ describes some of the struggles that some parents experience after their children have left the home. This could be feelings of loss, depression, loneliness, identity crisis, or other emotional distress. When one spends so much time focusing on the care and upbringing of their children, a role that is often taken very seriously, it can leave one feeling lost when their child’s needs change over time. It can be difficult to accept that your children are becoming more independent and may not need the same level of guidance. You may miss being in their daily lives and the companionship that comes with it. You may also worry about your children’s well-being and safety, since you are not there to take on this role. Here are some suggestions if you feel you are struggling with this life transition:
- Reconnect with your partner - Your role as a parent may have taken center stage at times. This is a time that you can reconnect with your spouse. Plan date nights, go on vacation, cook meals together, or participate in a fun activity. This can give you the time to focus on each other and what brought you together in the first place. If you are single, this can be a time to explore what you may want in a partner or other ways to expand your social circle.
- Keep in touch - Although providing your children with some space to help them become more secure in their role as an adult can be helpful, you can still be close to your children after they have left the home. Make it a priority to stay connected with visits, phone calls, emails, texts, or video chats.
- Seek new opportunities - You may have more time now to devote to you and your personal interests. This may be getting a new hobby or reconnecting to one from your past, seeking a change in your personal or professional career, or engaging in a fun activity that wasn’t a priority before.
- Seek support - If you are struggling with coping with an empty nest, seek support. Confide in your family and friends. Recognize that this adjustment will take time. If you find that empty nest syndrome is getting worse instead of better, or it doesn’t resolve in a couple of months, it may be time to seek professional help. Your primary care doctor, Life-Work Connections (EAP), or Behavioral Health Partners (BHP) can offer the emotional support or mental health services you need.
Behavioral Health Partners is brought to you by Well-U, offering eligible individuals mental health services for stress, anxiety, and depression. Our team of mental health professionals can accurately assess your symptoms and make recommendations for treatment. To schedule an intake appointment, give us a call at (585) 276-6900.
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Mayo Clinic. (2018). Empty Nest Syndrome: Tips for Coping. Retrieved From https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/empty-nest-syndrome/art-20047165
Morin, Amy. (2019). Very Well Family. 5 Ways to Cope With Empty Nest Syndrome. Retrieved From https://www.verywellfamily.com/how-to-cope-with-empty-nest-syndrome-4163133
Keith Stein |