5 Tips to Deal with Empty Nest Syndrome

Empty Nest Syndrome

It is a common phenomenon that many older individuals have struggled with without a name to put to it. It can be triggered in both men and women, and it comes, usually without warning, at the departure of your children—the empty nest syndrome. This wave of feelings is widespread, though many couples and parents are unaware it is even possible for them. Becoming educated about empty nest syndrome and how it can affect you, your spouse and your children is the best way to cope with the newness of having an empty home.

What Is Empty Nest Syndrome?

Many individuals may be uncertain about what empty nest syndrome is or who it affects. According to Mayo Clinic, empty nest syndrome is “a phenomenon in which parents experience feelings of sadness and loss when the last child leaves home.” It is essential to realize that empty nest syndrome is not a clinically diagnosed disorder but rather a common phenomenon.

What Is the Impact?

Although empty nest syndrome occurs most frequently in women, men are also affected sometimes, feeling the absence sometimes more intensely than women. Many issues can arise individually and in a marriage without help.

  • Sometimes empty nest syndrome divorce happens. When there are no longer children in the picture, many couples realize that they have grown apart while their children have been in the house and have to re-learn how to live with one another or regain their spark. If this continues to be an issue, sometimes it leads to a divorce.
  • Other times, issues like empty nest syndrome and depression may come up. Empty nest syndrome is not incredibly dangerous, but if the feelings intensify or prolong, it may lead to something more serious such as depression or anxiety. Learning how to deal with and control your feelings during this time is essential to make sure that nothing further escalates.

What Causes Empty Nest Syndrome?

Empty nest syndrome gets its name because your children have left due to graduation, marriage, or simply moving out, and you no longer have any babies in “the nest.” This empty nest, so to speak, creates a disunity that is not congruent with your daily life and leaves you feeling lonely until you can adjust to not having your children in your life every day.

  • Men or women in this stage of life may also be dealing with many other life-changing issues. Mothers may be going through menopause, or fathers may have to be taking care of their parents. This can naturally make the letting-go process a lot more difficult for parents.
  • Often, the strength of your parent-child relationship may influence how you react to your children leaving. Contrary to popular belief, parents with the closest relationship with their children may be able to cope with the release a lot better. For parents who have a rocky relationship with their kids, their leaving may bring many other dependence issues to the light.
  • Essentially, no real cause exists, and any parent is subject to experiencing the empty nest syndrome.

What Are the Symptoms?

There are many symptoms to watch to help you understand your emotions and the situation.

  • Feeling sad or alone after your child’s departure, or even sadness or emptiness beforehand, can signify impending or present empty nest syndrome.
  • Spending time in the child’s old bedroom or living space or reminiscing about old photos and things for extended periods is also common.
  • It would help if you kept a close eye on your feelings and emotions during this time.
  • If you feel that you have lost the meaning of your life or your usefulness, this could be a sign of extreme symptoms and lead to depression.
  • Likewise, if you no longer want to do daily activities, see your friends, or cry excessively, consider seeking professional help.
  • There is no clinical cure for empty nest syndrome as it is not a diagnosed disorder, but there are many ways to help alleviate the feelings and make the transition easier.

How to Deal with It

There are many tips on dealing with empty nest syndrome and different ways to make the process a lot easier for you and your spouse. One important thing to remember is that you being affected by empty nest syndrome does not always solely affect you. Often, your spouse and your children are also impacted, so finding ways to cope and work on making things easier to deal with is essential.

#1. Keep Yourself Busy

Keeping busy is one way that many parents try to adapt in case of their children’s absence.

  • One way to keep busy is to take on new opportunities at work and keep yourself always doing something. This not only helps pass the time but helps you make money as well.
  • Another thing to consider is to invest in a new hobby of some kind. This would help you spend time outside the house and not dwell on the emptiness.
  • Find new crafts or recipes to try. Take this time to do new things and explore things you have never explored.
  • Often, keeping yourself busy is a great distraction from the fact that your children aren’t there every waking hour.

#2. Don’t Compare Situations

One of the parents’ most significant mistakes is comparing their children to themselves or other couples’ children. When going through this stage, it is essential to realize that your child is transitioning and that comparing your situations may hurt the child.

  • Try not to compare the moving-out to how it happened when you or your spouse did it or how any of your friends did it to make your child stick around longer.
  • This shows signs of distress and denial of your child’s life process. This may only make them rebel.
  • Instead, try to encourage your child in their endeavors and make sure they know you’re proud of them and excited for their life.
  • Try to do things to prepare them for their life away from you. If they do not know how to do basic cooking, laundry or cleaning, take this time to teach them. This not only ensures they can live on their own, but it also helps put your mind at ease.
  • Overall, try not to put stress on your kids. They will already be having a hard enough time transitioning away from you.
  • Realize that this is a common way of life and necessary for every child to experience.

#3. Stay in Touch

One of the best ways to help yourself cope is by learning unique ways to stay in touch. Communication is one of the best medicines for separation.

  • Try to schedule a weekly call time so that you can sit down with them and hear about their week. Try to get into Skype if it is available.
  • It is essential not to be obsessive or smother them but to be sure and let them know you’re thinking about them and want to talk. Once a week is a safe number unless they initiate other call times in between (which is likely for a while).
  • Use email and texting to communicate throughout the week with things you want to share or to check in occasionally.
  • Do fun things like send them packages, letters or postcards just to let them know you’re thinking of them. This can help break the monotony of life, and it is also enjoyable to receive snail mail or packages.

#4. Focus on the Positives

There are many benefits to your children leaving the house. Please focus on the positives to help overcome the harmful stress of missing them.

  • Many couples use this time to reconnect after years of sharing with children. Use this time to get to know your spouse on a new level and reignite the spark that got you two together.
  • Do fun things together and travel. It’s financially a lot easier to do this without children.
  • Focus on what you can do with the additional space and money. Turn it into something valuable and fun.

#5. Get a Support System

Overall, feel free to get support. Team up with your spouse and get counseling to work through the most challenging parts. Please talk with your other married friends who have already experienced the empty nest syndrome and get their advice.

It might be fun to get together a weekly or monthly support group meeting with other couples experiencing the same things. This can be a great way to pass the time and connect with people in similar situations.

As you can see, empty nest syndrome can be challenging to experience, but it’s not impossible to get through. Many ways can help you cope and make your process go so much easier for you. If you are experiencing empty nest syndrome now, consider these tips, and be sure to talk with your doctor or counselor about your feelings.