Has your child left for college or off to a bigger city in search of a job? Does this make you feel sad? The feeling of sadness is normal and it’s called an empty nest syndrome. How to overcome it? We will get there but let’s start from the beginning first…
People experience transition periods during their lifetime, regarding different matters – education, family, career, relationships, friendships. It is well-known that life can be a bumpy ride and a roller-coaster at certain moments. One of the most thrilling, exciting and frightening moments of one’s life is the adulthood period. This period has many challenges and obstacles hidden in plain sight, especially when people decide to start a family.
The parental role is one of the most important and beautiful roles a person can have and also the most challenging one because there is no trial period or internship for this role and there is so much at stake. Many people struggle with their children’s early childhood and teenage phases and just when everything gets in line, the children decide to leave their parents’ home for college or to seek job opportunities in bigger cities.
How to overcome the empty nest syndrome?
One might think that when their kids leave, the parents are finally free. And, that they eager to explore their newly gained freedom. But are they really? While most of the parents are proud and pleased that their children are independent and paving their career paths, the transition brings a bittersweet feeling. This ambivalent feeling is called the Empty nest syndrome.
Although the name itself has a clinical ring to it, this is not a medical condition. However, this does not make it less painful. On the contrary, the Empty nest syndrome can be difficult to overcome and lead the parents into a state of discontent, discomfort, lethargy, depression, anxiety, stress and worry if the child is living far away.
In addition, parents will most likely experience the sense of loss of purpose and identity, which is based on the quality of the bond they established with their children and the time they invested in their children. There are several steps for overcoming the new circumstances and the feeling of sadness and emptiness.
Preparing and adjusting to the whole “empty nest” situation
Preparing for the empty “nest situation” is a crucial step and needs to be marked by an individual approach. Every parent should act according to their own feelings. There is no universal remedy or cure for this situation, however, the important thing is that you will feel better in time.
Does this mean you will stop worrying and stressing about the well-being of your child? No, but you will adjust to the circumstances and learn how to channel your energy into something more productive. It is absolutely natural to feel sad and anxious because your child left for college, however, if this state of discontent continues, you should seek professional support and help.
Exploring your life roles
This is the time for self-reflection, introspection and defining yourself as a person once again. You probably didn’t have time to explore yourself as a person while your children were young, so now is the time to think about your personality traits, values, interests and other things that define you as a person. Also, it is important to consider your life roles, besides the parental role. You might want to think about other relationships you have – with your partner or spouse, with your parents, siblings, friends, and colleagues and redefine yourself according to those roles. You should also consult your friends, family members, and colleagues and seek support, especially if they experienced this transition period as well.
Rekindling the relationship with your spouse or partner
Ever since the stork arrived at your home and blessed you with your bundle of joy, you were probably mostly focused on the little ones. As the little ones grew, new duties came along and you started worrying on a regular basis. This type of life probably put a strain on your marriage.
But now, the time has come to finally remember the old days of courtship and start dating your spouse again. You can relive some cherished memories or create new ones, go on a vacation or spend more time together at home, go out on dates and most importantly, focus your attention on each other. In case you do not have a partner, this is the time to consider finding one.
Reconnecting with friends and family and finding new hobbies
Can you remember the last time you spent an entire day with your siblings? Or your parents? How about your friends? People are generally aware of the fact that family life is time-consuming and will not hold this against their family or friends. However, this transition in your life will allow you to plan your time according to your own preferences. Now, you will have enough time to go out or invite your friends over. Also, you can visit your family members that live far away.
You have a lot more time on your hands now. So, why not find a new hobby or interest that was off limits while your kids were toddlers or teenagers? Furthermore, if you’re volunteering work is something that interests you, find a local cause and contribute to your community.
Exploring career opportunities
Maintaining work and life balance was exhausting, wasn’t it? Juggling professional challenges and work tasks is difficult by itself. And, when you add parental obligations to the mix, the situation becomes almost impossible. Mothers are affected by this even more. However, now is the time to focus on your career, because your family life has entered a relaxing phase. Now you have more time to explore various career opportunities.