The day has finally come when your child has moved out of the house. There were probably points along the way when you never thought you’d make it here. But you have. Whether off to college, starting a family of their own, enlisting for service, or just ready to explore the world and all it has to offer – your child has now spread his wings and taken flight. Walking through the house you are suddenly aware how quiet it is. Perhaps a little too quiet. If you are experiencing feelings of depression, rejection, worry and anxiety for your children, and a loss of purpose you, like many, may be experiencing the Empty Nest Syndrome.
When a child leaves home for the first time it can often be a difficult time of transition for the parents. This may be particularly true for full-time parents, those whose identity was based around being a parent, individuals who find change to be stressful or are already undergoing other significant changes (retirement, menopause, etc.) Parents who worked outside the home may begin questioning whether they invested enough time in their children. Try to remember these feelings are normal and this is a time of transition. You may be faced with trying to reconnect with your spouse since raising children is no longer your primary focus. Additionally, you will have to establish a new kind of relationship with the child. Communication may primarily take place electronically now which is a big shift from daily face to face interaction. Perhaps you also have an abundance of free time that you don’t know how to occupy.
The good news is this time of transition (and the feelings that go with it) doesn’t have to last forever. There are a number of things you can do to help. Find a hobby or an interest you enjoy that will occupy your time and help you to feel good about yourself. Consider volunteering in your community. Also, take advantage of the newly acquired time to reconnect with your partner. Spontaneity may have been difficult with children in the house, so take the opportunity to go on dates or focus on intimacy. If your relationship was strained before the kids left, use the time you now have to work on the relationship. And of course, maintaining communication with your child (in whatever form circumstances will allow) can help reduce the Empty Nest feelings. If you feel you are stuck in this stage be sure to reach out to family and friends for support.
It’s also important to note that not all parents will go through this stage. Don’t feel guilty if you find yourself in a happy place after your children leave the house. Take pride in the job you’ve done raising your child and live confidently knowing you help gave them the wings to fly!
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