Overcoming Empty Nester Syndrome 

As the fast-approaching college move-in date draws near, parents might begin to sense the impact of the empty nest syndrome – a phenomenon some caregivers undergo when their children depart from home. While these significant shifts in life are frequently filled with anticipation, it's not unusual to encounter emotions such as grief, sadness, solitude and possibly even depression. The empty nest syndrome primarily affects parents whose grown children are leaving for college or embarking on their journey into adulthood by moving out. Nevertheless, it can also be felt by parents entering a new phase of parenthood, such as witnessing their child's entry into kindergarten or first grade. 

 

The symptoms and signs of empty nest syndrome are commonly associated with feelings one has while going through a significant change or loss. Let’s look at the symptoms more closely.  

  • Loneliness: felt by many parents who feel disconnected from their children.  

  • Greif: research characterizes grief as a process involving feelings of being adrift, yearning, and a sense of loss. Often, it drives the need to discover new meaning or purpose.  

  • Anxiety: Feeling uncertain about your child’s future and grappling with ambiguity about your own role moving forward can lead to anxious feelings. 

  •  Sadness: This emotion is a typical response to loss and is frequently experienced by parents as they observe their child’s growth. It often prompts individuals to introspect and seek support from others. 
  • Frustration: Parents may experience nostalgia when they struggle to accept their new reality and yearn for things to return to the way they were. 

  • Depression: This mix of emotions and symptoms, including sadness and diminished interest, can be encountered by parents who struggle to process their grief.  

  • Marital stress: It’s not unusual for parents adapting to a new routine without children to experience strains in their relationship, resulting in heightened tension and arguments. 

  • Loss of identity and purpose: As a guardian, it may be hard to sit in your now empty house and wonder what you’re supposed to do next without having a child at home to take care of.  

  • Loss of control: Feelings of distress can emerge when children venture out and become independent due to the anxiety of not being able to control their future, both in their success and failure.  

If you find yourself grappling with empty nest syndrome, remember that you're not alone in this experience. This transition holds significant weight for both you and your children, and it's completely natural for such shifts to be accompanied by a range of emotions. Let's explore some strategies to assist you in managing this period:  

  • Craft a fresh daily schedule using your core values and objectives and then create a routine that aligns with them. Alongside daily responsibilities, incorporating an enjoyable activity can infuse excitement into your routine.  

  • Channel your emotions into artistic expression, whether through poetry, storytelling, photography, dance, or music. Studies show that art therapy holds major potential for healing.  

  • Reflect on your role as a parent during the last phase of your child’s life by journaling or meditating about things you’re grateful for. Also, peer into the future and jot down your anticipations.   

  • Tune into a podcast or show that features individuals undergoing a similar experience to find a natural connection and relatability.  

  • Engage in conversations with someone who shares your circumstances, such as a trusted friend or therapist. This remains to be one of the most effective approaches to process your grief and transition into a new life stage.  

  • Arrange phone or in-person rendezvous to connect with your child. While maintaining contact and expressing support is vital, remember that connecting with your child daily might not be productive for either of you as they work towards self-sufficiency.  

If you have an interest or hobby, there is likely a club or community of people who are interested in it too. Chances are, you can potentially link up with these groups via Facebook or a nearby park district website.  

 A few examples of clubs or groups include: 

Fitness club, book club, art club, photography club, writing club, dance club or technology club! 

 Explore a new hobby: 

Organize a game night with old friends, embark on a journey to learn a new language, participate in workshops and conferences, delve into a yoga class, become a member of a wine tasting class, enroll in a woodworking class, could even take music lessons! 

 Go on a vacation: 

Interestingly, traveling contributes positively to your holistic health and well-being. In fact, a vacation offers a range of advantages such as an immunity boost, improved cognitive flexibility, decreased stress, and a lower risk of heart disease.  

 Engage in activities with friends: 

Visit a nearby art museum, train together for a 5k or marathon, play team sports together, go on a thrift store adventure or even have a picnic in the park. 

 If the absence of caring for your children is leaving a void and causing stress, consider alleviating this by getting a pet. Interestingly, research indicates that interacting with pets can lead to a decrease in cortisol levels and a reduction in blood pressure. 

 Empty nest syndrome constitutes a natural aspect of life, which can persist for a brief period (a few months) or an extended duration (a year or more), depending on the individual. For parents who held strong attachments or linked a significant portion of their identity to their parenting role, adapting to a novel way of life might extend over a year or even longer. Conversely, parents who cultivate or maintain an identity beyond parenthood might find it easier and quicker to overcome empty nest syndrome. 

 Remember to engage in open communication with your adult child concerning this new phase in your relationship. The initial stages may seem a bit uncertain, but as you establish a fresh routine and engage in candid discussions about what's effective and what isn't, you'll gradually find contentment in this delightful new chapter. 

 If you'd like to speak to a member of The Simmonds Team, give us a call at 561-491-2381 or email us at team@simmondsteam.com.


Written by Megan Bauries

 

Posted by Amy Simmonds on

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