Empty nest syndrome is a phenomenon in which parents experience feelings of sadness, angst, even mourning when their last child moves out of the home. Often the parents feel confused, bewildered, and unable to figure out what to do next. Some parents experience poor sleep and loss of appetite. Sometimes the feelings of loss are so deep that they can lead to depression and alcoholism.
While not everyone goes through empty nest syndrome, the sense of loss can be worse for divorced or single parents because those parents have often devoted all of their time and energy in their children. And, they have no spouse with whom to share the loss.
If you feel you may experience empty nest syndrome or are currently experiencing it, you don’t have to suffer this loss needlessly. Try to be proactive and think about how you will feel once your children are gone before they actually leave home. Ask yourself what you will do when that child goes off to college. If you don’t have any idea, it’s time to get involved in activities that don’t involve your children. Develop or rekindle some friendships. Get involved in an old or new hobby. Look for some career or educational opportunities. Make your life a little fuller before that child leaves home and the hole that child leaves won’t be quite so large.
Here are some ideas to escape the empty nest syndrome.
- Plan to do something special as soon as your last child leaves home. Visit a relative you haven’t seen in awhile. Or visit an old college roommate. Spend a week at a spa and pamper yourself a little. Indulge yourself just a bit.
- Improve your skills by taking classes. Brush up old skills or add new ones. Adding skills can help if you are trying to get back into the working world or if you are looking to advance or change your career.
- Take some classes for fun. If you have been fascinated by photography, the film industry, public speaking, pottery, painting, music, etc., take some classes and explore these interests.
- Think about joining a group of “empty nesters” who will understand what you are going through or consider starting your own Meet Up Group as a support for others experiencing empty nest syndrome. The purpose is not to dwell on the loss, but to do something with your time. The group could meet to see movies, have a picnic in the park, go biking or hiking, or to do any other fun activity.
- Try doing some volunteer work. There is nothing like helping others to take our minds off feelings of emptiness. Helping others is also a way to help yourself. Helping an organization in your local community that you’re passionate about will provide a sense of fulfillment and new purpose.
- Start an exercise program. Exercise is great for reducing stress and improving the mood. It will keep you busy and healthy.
If you are aware that you could go through empty nest syndrome when your last child goes off to college, you can prepare for it. While you will feel some loss, you can empower yourself to get through this period successfully.
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