There comes a time in most parents' lives when the home that once seemed too small to hold all the laughter, tears, fun, fights, "firsts," and attacks of teenage drama suddenly feels like an empty shell. We're talking about the time when your last child moves out for college, a job, or a "nest" of his or her own.
The common name for the feelings that can hit parents when this happens is "Empty nest syndrome." And it's a very real thing. Psychology Today says: "Empty Nest Syndrome refers to feelings of depression, sadness, and/or grief experienced by parents and caregivers after children come of age and leave their childhood homes. Women are more likely than men to be affected; often, when the nest is emptying, mothers are going through other significant life events as well, such as menopause or caring for elderly parents. Yet this doesn't mean that men are completely immune to Empty Nest Syndrome. Men can experience similar feelings of loss regarding the departure of their children."
But the good news is, the feelings will pass, just as the sadness eventually passed when you left your own home for the first time.
And until then, there things that can make the change a little easier. If you have good relationships with your children, you'll all feel better faster. There's a good chance you'll find yourself in a little more of a "peer" relationship with your children, but this opens a door to all kinds of new ways to enjoy each other's company.
Here are some ways to cope:
Ask anyone who's watched the babies fly, and you'll hear that life does get better again. However, there are times when sadness can get worse and become depression. Signs include:
If you feel any of these things for longer than a week, ask your doctor if he or she knows a good counselor. You want to be in good shape for your child's first visit home, after all.
Having your children leave home is a big event. But it's a normal and natural part of life, and the healthier you can be through this phase, the more you'll see that one ending really is a new beginning. Here's to your health!
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