Gone are the days when you were always on your toes, going after your children and tidying the house. The house is now quiet, and this feeling is new. What do you do now that the kids are all grown up?
While the kids leave to see the world and live the best life they can ever imagine for themselves; meanwhile, the parents are stuck at home, doing the same things day in and day out.
Seeing how different their home is now that the children left made them feel sentimental and nostalgic. This is true especially for stay-at-home mothers who spend a significant fraction of their lives caring for their children.
Empty Nest Syndrome
Empty Nest Syndrome (ENS) is a period of mourning and adjustment for parents. This grief of parents stems from the moment their children leave their homes.
Empty Nest Syndrome is a significant life change that typically affects the 40-50 age group. This is common among women than men. Many mothers may experience mood swings, irregularities in sleep, hot flashes, and other disturbing symptoms.
Once adult children leave the family home, mothers start to feel worthless. They have dedicated their lives to caring for their children. When the children are all grown up, they feel that their job is over and nothing is worthwhile.
Signs of Empty Nest and Depression
Here are the signs if you have Empty Nest Syndrome:
Loss of Purpose
It is common for many parents to feel lost and confused after their children leave the nest. As parents, their days are filled with their children’s school activities and work-related activities. Now that the children have lives of their own, it’s difficult to even start the day.
You are now frustrated because you don’t know what is happening to your children. You used to know what they were up to every single day. You are feeling frustrated because you feel that you no longer have control over them.
If you are used to being a helicopter parent, it is time that you forget about it, and you give your children their own space to breathe.
You have prepared them well for adult life. Be confident and trust your children that they can survive the harsh realities of adult life.
It is normal to feel sad during this stage in your life. The list below shows the possible reasons causing this feeling of sadness:
- Your children are now adults
- You didn’t spend time with your kids when they were younger
- You are scared of getting older
- You are uncertain about your married life
- You didn’t reach the goals you aspired for in life
Stress in Marriage
Once children come into the picture, most couples tend to focus more on the children and neglect their marriage. As soon as the children move out of the nest, the couples are left staring at each other. They don’t seem to know how to interact with each other without their children.
Getting to know each other again can be such a hassle. But, you started this family together. You can both get out of this nesting phase better together.
Anxious About Your Children
You are scared of how your children are outside in the real world. This anxious feeling is normal. However, be cautious of excessive anxiety.
You can check up on them the first few days after they leave. Your children would appreciate it. Make sure not to bother them every day, for they might repulse you and not contact you at all. Also, don’t lurk in their social media accounts. Let them live their lives according to their choice. If they need you, they know where to find you.
Individuals suffering from Empty Nest Syndrome have several common depressive symptoms such as:
- Change is stressful
- They feel that moving out is a difficult and emotional experience
- Unhappy marriage
- They are hurt because their children are no longer dependent on them, and they are exploring the world independently.
- They feel that their children are not equipped to take on roles as young adults.
Who Is More Likely to Experience Empty Nest Syndrome?
Research suggests that full-time parents are more likely to have Empty Nest Syndrome because of the following reasons:
- Those who can’t live alone
- Those with struggling marriages
- Those who get their self-identity from their parenting roles
Challenges Brought by Empty Nest Syndrome
Having Empty Nest Syndrome comes will so many challenges to conquer. Here are some of these challenges:
- Establishing and maintaining a new type of relationship with your adult child
- How to be a sweet couple again now that the children are not around
- How to fill up your daily schedule now that there are fewer things to do
- Inconsideration and lack of sympathy from others because they don’t understand you
How to Deal With Empty Nest Syndrome
There are so many ways empty nesters can battle ENS. They can communicate with their children online, explore a new hobby, and make time for their friends (they too are empty nesters already).
If only one adult child has left the family home, and you still have other children living with you, you can start to prepare yourself for empty nesting. You can gradually adjust to the idea that your children will eventually have lives of their own. However, this can be quite challenging for parents with only one child.
If you have experienced major depression in the past, you are most likely to develop Empty Nest Syndrome. Here are some tips on how you can cope with Empty Nest Syndrome:
Acknowledge Your Grief
Allow yourself to be sad about feeling empty. If you are done crying, it is time to acknowledge your feelings. Talk about your sadness to your partner or friends. Seek their support and advice.
Give Yourself Time
Change is hard, and adjusting to it takes time. Don’t pressure yourself to feel better right away.
This is the time you get your bucket list. If you have dreams of finishing school, now is a perfect time. Join socio-civil groups or do volunteer work.
Start keeping a journal or take an interest in meditation or yoga. Make sure to keep your health in check. Eat healthily and be diligent in visiting your doctor for checkups.
Focus On the Positive Side
Many parents report that they have better relationships with their children after they leave their family home. As empty-nesters, you now have more time for yourself. You can start developing your relationships with other family members, friends, and colleagues.
If the depression is unbearable and persists longer than two weeks, you should seek treatment. There should be a line that differentiates ENS and depression.
Treatment is needed to deal with depression as a mental illness. Treatment ranges from joining support groups, visiting a psychologist for counseling, and visiting a psychiatrist for antidepressant medications. They could also recommend treatment facilities in your area.
Adult Children Should Help Their Parents Cope
Adult children are often excited about venturing on their own and claiming their independence. Because of this, they often forget about their parents.
Parents are always supportive of their children. Even if they feel sad and uncomfortable about the idea of their children leaving them, they have to put on a brave face.
As an adult child, don’t forget about your parents. A big part of their lives was focused on you. Even if you are miles away from them, they still think about you. What can you do to help them cope with Empty Nest Syndrome? Here are some tips:
- Call them. You don’t have to call them every day. But make sure to make an effort during special days like birthdays, Christmas, New Year, and anniversaries.
- When you get days off, visit them even for a short while. If you got a vacation leave, you could bring them with you.
- Set up get-togethers for your parents and their friends. This is a great way for them to ease the sadness that they feel about you leaving.
- If your parents are really struggling with Empty Nest Syndrome, accompany them to a mental health professional. Be with them during their checkups. You can also look for support groups that they can participate in.
Remember that your parents are growing old. They need to make as many happy memories as possible. Try as hard as you can to make time for them.
A Bittersweet Feeling
You have spent almost half of your life with your children. It can be very scary once they leave home. Your feelings are normal and valid. Every empty nester can understand the pain and sadness of children leaving home.
It feels good to talk to someone who understands and validates what you feel. Kentucky Counseling Center (KCC) understands what empty nesters feel. Feeling alone and unappreciated is such a burden. KCC can help you adjust to this new chapter of your life with more smiles and better relationships. Seek professional help now. You don’t have to worry because you will feel better in no time.