Empty Nest Syndrome is a phrase used where a parent may experience feelings of loss and sadness when their child leaves home, characterised by a young bird flying away from the nest.
Parents bring up children from a point of total dependence to one of independence, yet when that day comes, when the child is grasping that independence and leaves home, it can generate very strong feelings of loss. They’ve been central to our home life. It’s just not the same without them. It might feel a bit like a bereavement. And it can take time to adjust and accept.
We can help you explore your feelings of loss associated with when a child leaves home... maybe for work, for further education or through new relationships and gaining new experiences.
There are huge attachment issues likely to be going on here, for both sides. And it can take a considered assessment to take stock, process and work with the feelings of loss and change.
The following brief tips may offer you some options, taken from The Crisis Book, but do get in touch to discuss how we can help you further;
Accept. Of course you may miss your child and worry about them. That’s perfectly natural. But you need to accept this is happening. It’s very real.
Self-care. Look after yourself. Appreciate you’re going through this life event and understand you still need to care for yourself, even if you’re not caring for the child in quite the way you did.
No change. What doesn’t ever change is that you will ALWAYS be the parent!
Comparisons. Don’t compare what it was like for you when you left home. What’s happening here is unique and so you need to appreciate this from our child’s point of view, not yours.
Other events. The time when your child leaves home may coincide with the need to support, look after or care for elderly relatives or parents. You might also find you’re experiencing the menopause (women) or andropause (men). These are big life changes and you need to give some space to them.
Guidance. Sometimes it can help to see yourself as less of the ‘parent who makes rules’ to someone who can give your child guidance and coaching. It’s an opportunity to develop a new relationship with them.
Respect as adults. It can be tempting to stay in the parent/child mode and continue to regard your child as your ‘baby’, but they’re adults now. Show respect and treat them as the independent adults they’ve become, and they’ll model similar behaviour.
Keep in touch. Stay connected with text messages, Facetime or Skype chats, emails and instant messaging as well as the good old fashioned face-to-face catch-up, maybe tempting them back with a hearty Sunday lunch or weekend activity sharing.
Beginnings. Now is a time to give time back to you. Is there a hobby, interest or pastime you’ve always hankered after?
Partners. When children have left home, and for people with a partner, you might find the relationship changes, sometimes for the better, and sometimes exposing problems.
Delay changes. It takes time to adapt to the changes and understand how they affect you. It might be prudent to delay making any big changes, such as changing our job, home, partner etc.
Support. Many people experience this empty nest syndrome. It might help to speak with a Therapist to give yourself time and space to accept the changes, cope better and forge your future.
Stay positive. The feelings of sadness and loss should be temporary and you can reduce this time by focusing on the positives. Sure, accept the reality, appreciate how the emotional pain really hurts, but stay with the positives.