What is Empty Nest Syndrome?
What is Empty Nest Syndrome? Well, in short, it’s one of the challenges parents face as their children grow.
Parenting is, of course, a rewarding and uplifting experience. Although the newborn stage and teenage years might be renowned for complex emotions and situations, as children grow and embark on their own paths, there are additional obstacles for parents to overcome.
Referred to as an empty nest, when children leave home to start their own lives, parents often struggle with a range of emotions. Here, we delve deeper into what is known as Empty Nest Syndrome and its common symptoms and offer some compassionate and proactive strategies for coping.
What is Empty Nest Syndrome?
Empty Nest Syndrome describes a phase in a parent’s life when their children leave home for the likes of education, career opportunities and independence. They ‘fly the nest’, if you will.
It’s a time when parents are the only people left in the family home and describes more than just a physical departure but also an emotional shift. The feelings associated with Empty Nest Syndrome can come on suddenly, or they can take a while to develop, but typically, it results in parents feeling lonely and emotional.
There are various reasons why children may leave home. This includes academic success, such as university or college, or they may leave the city for a new job. While primarily positive experiences, this can also be bittersweet for many parents and trigger a range of emotions. If you are struggling with these emotions, acknowledging and embracing any changes in your situation is often the first step in coping with how you’re feeling.
Common Symptoms of Empty Nest Syndrome
The emotional impact of your children leaving home can be profound. What’s more, it can affect people in lots of different ways, including feelings of sadness, loneliness and loss.
If you are experiencing these feelings, remember that they are a natural response to what has been a huge change in your life and family dynamics. Remind yourself that it’s normal and okay to feel a range of emotions during this time.
Some of the most common signs of Empty Nest Syndrome include:
- An overwhelming sadness
- A sense of loss
- Feelings of isolation
- A shift in identity as primary roles change
Causes and Risk Factors
One of the biggest reasons why someone may experience Empty Nest Syndrome is because of the huge life changes and the fact that the parent-child dynamics have been altered.
Parental identity and roles go through a transformation, and some people struggle to know where they fit in with this new lifestyle. It may also highlight that life is evolving, and some people feel like they are no longer needed in their child’s life, although that is far from the truth.
While anyone can struggle with Empty Nest Syndrome, those who have had an intense focus on parenting as their sole identity may be more at risk of it. What’s more, when the empty nest coincides with other life stressors, including relationship struggles and divorce, it can mean that someone is more prone to the emotional impact of Empty Nest Syndrome.
Advice For Those Coping with Empty Nest Syndrome
If you or someone you know is struggling with Empty Nest Syndrome, it’s important to practice self-compassion and use the following proactive coping strategies to help:
- Find new hobbies: By rediscovering interests and exploring new ones, you can fill your time with fun activities and channel any energy into positive experiences.
- Meet up with friends: Try to develop connections with friends and family, and do things you might not have been able to do with children living at home. This can do wonders for feelings of isolation.
- Prioritise yourself: Taking care of your emotional and physical well-being is essential – especially during tougher times.
- Focus on your relationship: If you have a partner, speak to them as they may be feeling the same. Together, you can work to strengthen your connection and create a loving support system.
- Consider therapy: If you are really struggling with Empty Nest Syndrome, know that professional support and guidance for your mental health can provide you with the tools and resources required to manage how you’re feeling.
The Positives of Empty Nesting
Another way to help you feel better when it comes to Empty Nest Syndrome is to look at the positives of your situation. By embracing these and viewing them as a silver lining, you’re more likely to embrace this new chapter in your life.
- Rediscovering your personal space – When children leave home, you’re better able to reclaim areas of your home and create a more personal environment. Instead of spending your days parenting, you can now focus on individual interests and needs.
- Pursuing postponed goals – Now is the ideal time to look back at things in your life that may have taken a back seat during parenting, including further education, a career change and even a passion project.
- Enjoying a more flexible lifestyle – Fewer responsibilities mean that you can be more spontaneous, whether it’s with regard to outings or even daily routines. This level of adaptability can be very exciting.
- Embracing self-discovery – Again, without the constant demands and focus associated with parenting, you can reconnect with your own identity, explore your own interests and re-ignite parts of yourself that may have been set aside.
- Strengthening your bond as a couple – With children elsewhere, an empty nest can be a great place for you and your partner to rediscover and strengthen your bond. You can invest more time into each other and reignite the spark, fostering a deeper and more emotional connection.
- Opportunities for social connections – This is also a great time to see friends and family members and expand your social circles. Join clubs, attend community events, and engage in new activities to keep you busy and help you create more meaningful connections.
Find Support Today
Life after children might be scary, but coping with Empty Nest Syndrome could be easier than you think. There is help available.
Not only should you consider sharing your feelings with friends and family, but the team at Step 1 Recovery can help, too. Our professionals can point you in the right direction for resources and support groups tailored to your situation. Remember, you are not alone in this journey, and plenty of other people feel the same way. Reaching out is one of the most important ways to step towards a better day.