Empty Nest Syndrome and depression. Here we are – the end of May. This brings graduation, and for some parents, the acute realization that they will soon be “empty nesters.” Empty Nest Syndrome is defined as when your last, or only, child is all grown up and about to leave home. This can cause mixed emotions, and sometimes even depression. Waters Edge Counseling wants you to understand why empty nest syndrome happens and what you can do about it.
What’s empty nest syndrome?
Empty nest syndrome is not an actual clinical diagnosis. Empty nest syndrome is a phenomenon in which parents experience feelings of loss and sadness when their last or only child leaves home. For college or for the “real world.”
Many of us, as parents, actively encourage our children to become independent. But even so, the experience of letting go can be painful. You might miss providing those daily essentials and also being a part of your children’s daily lives. As well as the constant companionship.
As parents, you might also worry about your children’s safety and whether they’ll be able to take care of themselves. There is a struggle with the transition if your last child leaves the nest a little earlier or later than you expected. Also, if you have only one child or strongly identify with your role as parent, this might be particularly difficult.
What is the impact of empty nest syndrome?
Research suggested that parents dealing with empty nest syndrome experienced a profound sense of loss. This might make them vulnerable to depression, alcoholism, identity crisis and marital issues.
When the last child leaves home, it’s an opportunity. Parents may have a new chance to reconnect with each other. They can improve the quality of their marriage. Possibly rekindle interests for which they previously might not have had time.
How can I cope with empty nest syndrome?
If you feel you are experiencing feelings of loss due to empty nest syndrome, take action. We suggest:
- Accept the timing. Don’t compare your child’s timetable to your own experience and/or expectations. Focus on what you can do to guide your child to succeed when they do leave home.
- Keep close touch. Parents can continue to be in touch with your children even when you live apart. Maybe make an effort to maintain regular contact through visits, phone calls, emails, texts or video chats.
- Seek support with friends or loved ones. Take time to share your feelings with loved ones. Reach out to friends whose children have recently left home. If you feel depressed, consult a therapist.
- Try to Stay positive. Sometimes, thinking about the extra time and energy you might have to devote to your marriage or personal interests after your last child leaves home might help you adapt to this major life change.
Can I prevent empty nest syndrome?
If your last child is about to leave home and you’re worried about empty nest syndrome, you can plan ahead. Waters Edge Counseling has therapists here to help. Look for new opportunities in your personal and professional life. We suggest keeping busy or taking on new challenges at work or at home. Call us. We would love to hear from you.