Your child just moved out of the house for the first time to live on their own or attend college. Looking around his or her empty room, you are lost in your thoughts and you are not quite sure of how you feel emotionally. If this sounds like you, this may be a sign that you’re experiencing the Empty Nest Syndrome.
The Empty Nest Syndrome is a non-clinical term used to describe feelings of sadness and loss experienced by parents when their children leave home.
How do you survive from these feelings of loneliness? Here are eight tips to help you cope and transition to the next phase of your life.
1. Allow Yourself Some Time
The first time your child is away from home for an extended period of time can be difficult in many ways. It’s completely normal to grieve and feel sad, lonely, and depressed about these new changes. While you know that it’s not good-bye forever, you just can’t help but feel very complex emotions. That is completely normal! Don’t try to accelerate your grieving. Give yourself adequate time to grieve and you will start feeling better.
2. Accept the Nature of Adulthood
Everyone ages. Growing to be an adult is a natural process. You’ve gone through it and now it’s your child’s turn! Leaving home to live in college dorms or live independently is a phase to become responsible grown-ups. Your children need to learn to wake up on their own, manage their time, do basic house chores (for example, washing dishes, cleaning their room, and doing laundry) to become an adult. This is a significant period of change both for you and your child.
3. Stay Connected
Just because your child is physically away from home, this certainly doesn’t mean you have to lose connection altogether. Find a time that works for both of you and plan video chats to hear updates and see each other. Not tech-savvy? No worries! You can still stay connected through voice calls, text messages, and emails. Or even better, perhaps you can surprise your out-of-home child by writing a letter and mailing it the old fashioned way! Rather than contacting them every day, discuss with your child the best times to communicate with each other.
4. Spend More Time with Your Spouse
A house without kids means more time for you and your spouse! Ever since you had kids, the places you chose to go and the things you chose to do were most likely “family-friendly.” Now you can make plans for the two of you to go out to a nice restaurant for a fancy dinner. Many other opportunities may now present themselves now that you have some time on your hands without the kids. Why not use this as an opportunity to find ways to spend meaningful time with each other? Plan a date night or consider different options to find new activities you can enjoy as a couple.
5. Enjoy your Freedom: Live Your Dream
You were probably very busy car-pooling, taking your kids to their sports games, dropping them off at the tutor’s, and making sure that you were always available to meet their needs. When was the last time you’ve done something for yourself? What were some of your dreams? Is there a new hobby you want to try out? You can now enjoy your freedom from full-time parenting and live your dream. Make a list of all the things that you wanted to accomplish in your life and start crossing them off one by one.
6. Seek Support from Friends and Family
When you are feeling lonely and sad, you can lean on your friends and family for support. Feel free to express your emotions to them; let them keep you company for a while. Invite them to your house or go over to their place and spend some time in a warm, comfortable atmosphere. It will boost your mood and make you feel less lonely without the presence of your child.
7. Enjoy Me Time!
Self-care is vital when you are feeling down or distressed. When you are experiencing the Empty Nest Syndrome, it is a good idea to have an outlet for your sorrow or loneliness. What are some activities you like to do to pass the time? In addition to spending time with your friends and family, finding things that are comforting and soothing to you will definitely get you to be more active and less listless. Try to incorporate more self-care routines into your daily schedule and see how it helps.
8. Feel Good About What You’ve Accomplished!
It can be very comforting to focus on what you’ve accomplished in raising your child. You have spent years, nurturing and molding this person to prepare them for this very moment! Your child is leaving your home, not your heart and you are not leaving theirs. So, instead of thinking about what you are missing, think about all the new things you will be sharing. Fill your heart with joy and happiness for this new and exciting journey your child is about to embark on. This is not the end, this is just a new beginning for all of you!
9. Seek Professional Help
What if what you’ve tried just isn’t working? Seek professional help and speak to a counselor about how you’re feeling. Some people spend time looking at old photos of their children to remind them of the good old days, thinking that this will help with the sadness and loneliness. However, such coping mechanisms may only make you feel more depressed, and it’s important to find a counselor/therapist to help you through the phase. Professional counselors can help you process your emotions and develop coping strategies that you can use to overcome your sorrow and feelings of emptiness.
While adjusting to your new home situation may be difficult, it is important to keep a positive mindset. Your child will likely come home during most holidays to visit you and you can always stay connected through video/audio calls! Also, remind yourself that this is the beginning of your child’s adulthood and this gives you more time to accomplish your personal dreams and goals. Most importantly, don’t rush or force yourself to immediately feel okay. Take your time and wait for yourself to be ready to try some of these suggestions. Hopefully, you’ll find them helpful in overcoming the Empty Nest Syndrome!