by Flynn Roberts
aising children who are confident enough to fly the coop and become successful members of society is an accomplishment that should make parents proud. They did their job as a parent. However, many parents feel grief or lack of purpose when their children leave home. This experience is called “Empty Nest Syndrome.”
While there is no official Empty Nest Syndrome diagnosis, it does mark a very challenging transitional period for many caregivers. There are ways for caregivers to plan for and cope with the sense of loss, worry and sadness they may experience when their children leave home.
Build An Identity Outside of Parenthood
Many parents lose themselves while they are raising children. Their entire identities center on their parenting. One way to avoid loneliness when children leave is for parents to build their individual lives before the nest becomes empty. Engage in relationships with friends, family and partners. Many caregivers begin focusing on their careers more or finding new hobbies.
Make a Plan for Contacting Adult Children
Before the children even move out, it helps to plan how often their parents will contact them. Parents should listen to their child’s boundaries and not be afraid to set their own. It maybe tempting to text them every night to maintain a loving connection. However, adult children should also have the opportunity to initiate communication on their own. Finding a balance is key to having a healthy relationship.
Develop a Schedule
For those who feel they lack purpose when their children moveout, it may be helpful to incorporate more structure into their day. A schedule will keep them too busy to be bored or worried.
Pick Up New Hobbies
Every one should find pursuits that give them joy. Having children at home makes it challenging to make time for hobbies. Now is the time to invest in classes, fitness plans and vacations that were not feasible with children.
Connect with Others in Similar Situations
It can help to find people in similar situations. There are plenty of groups for empty nesters or retired individuals who help each other engage in the world without children. Support groups are a great way to validate a person’s feelings and keep them occupied.
It Won’t Happen Overnight
Most children return home for dinner, to wash clothes and remind their parents that they still need help from time to time. It’s unrealistic to try to become a new person overnight. New habits and routines take time to establish. In the meantime, it helps for the caregiver to continue to care for their child as much as their boundaries will allow.