My baby is leaving home… what am I going to do now? Many parents experience a feeling of loss when the last child leaves home. Well, you are not alone. The majority of parents experience that feeling of a double edged sword. Parents are thrilled that all of the nurturing, caring and teachings has led their child to be actively independent, coupled with the loss of the daily experiences and companionship they share with their child every day at home.
This mish-mash of emotions actually has a name – empty nest syndrome. This is not a clinical diagnosis, but rather an occurrence that happens during one of the major changes in your and your child’s life.
Historically research suggested that parents dealing with empty nest syndrome experienced a profound sense of loss that might make them vulnerable to depression, alcoholism, identity crisis and marital conflicts. Recent studies look in the other direction. The empty nest might reduce family conflicts and work. These studies suggest that there are a number of other benefits that can arise.
This may be the best time to renew the connection between you and your spouse. Spend quality time together; even have a romantic interlude in the living room by the fireplace. When was the last time you could do that with the kids’ at home?
Your time is your own. How nice is it to be able to plan your day without having to worry about what needs to be done for the kids. Day off? Lay in bed reading. Better yet, lay in bed reading with your significant other!.
All kidding aside here are some suggestions that according to the Mayo Clinic may help with empty nest syndrome:
1) Accept the timing. Avoid comparing your child’s timetable to your own experience or expectations. Instead, focus on what you can do to help your child succeed when he or she does leave home.
2) Keep in touch. You can continue to be close to your children even when you live apart. Make an effort to maintain regular contact through visits, phone calls, emails, texts or video chats.
3) Seek support. If you’re having a difficult time dealing with an empty nest, lean on loved ones and other close contacts for support. Share your feelings. If you feel depressed, consult your doctor or a mental health provider.
4) Stay positive. 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.
5) Look for new opportunities in your personal and professional life. Keeping busy or taking on new challenges at work or at home can help ease the sense of loss that your child’s departure might cause.