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‘My 3 and half years old grandson spends 40-45 minutes with the books everyday’, says a proud grandmother from Bengaluru, India.
December 16, 2022

Handling the Empty Nest Syndrome

Being a parent has its many ups and many downs. From the time you hear their first words, to waving goodbye to them on their first day of college, having and being around children is filled with significant and meaningful life events.But if there is one major event and time in a family’s life that parents tend to struggle with that is when the children leave home.

The term that is used for the grief that a lot of parents feel when their children move out of the home is ‘Empty Nest Syndrome’. This is a very common phenomenon in which parents experience loneliness, melancholy, and sadness. The parents tend to grieve the loss and change of a lifestyle and a relationship that was heavily integrated and rooted as a part of their identity. In addition, the Early Nest Syndrome is compounded by a variety of other difficult, significant and challenging life events, where substantial events and changes are happening at the same time.

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While Empty Nest Syndrome can be difficult on both parents, but it seems that mothers are most susceptible to it. This may be because many mothers dedicate an approximate of 20 years or more of their lives in raising their children and see motherhood as their primary role in life, and it becomes an essential part of their identity, and this is true for even most working mothers. This is because once the child moves out, the mother may feel like their most important job is now finished, and they may feel uncertain and unsure of what the future holds. However, most mothers adapt over time. Studies show that mothers may take anywhere between 18 months to 2 years to make a successful transition from ‘mother’ to independent woman.

Research and studies show that some parents are most susceptible and vulnerable to the Empty Nest Syndrome than others are. And the people who suffer from the ‘Empty Nest Syndrome’ tend to have a few things in common:

  1. Change is considered stressful, instead of being challenging and refreshing.
  2. They find moving out as a difficult emotional experience.

Parents face new challenges when experiencing the Empty Nest Syndrome, such as:

  1. Establishing a new relationship with their children.
  2. Filling the void in their daily routine created by the absence of their children.

 

 

There are an array of other difficulties that parents may feel when their child leaves home. The grief of Empty Nest Syndrome is often compounded and multiplied several-fold by other life events happening around the same time; some examples are:

  1. Retirement
  2. Redundancy

Most mothers and fathers return to work after their child leaves the nest. Some suggestions for parents who are doing so are:

  1. Write up and make a list of all the things you would ‘one day’ do when you have the time, and start making your dreams a reality!
  2. You can start with attainable and achievable goals, something small to start, for example – starting a short course on a hobby you really enjoy, rather than jumping into a 3-year course.
  3. Catch up with friends and family who you haven’t had the chance to meet in a while!
  4. Consider volunteer work!

Your child moving out can result in significant stress. Some suggestions for coping with it include:

  1. The first step is to acknowledge the grief you feel, even if it may feel like no one else seems to understand – allow yourself to feel upset.
  2. Discuss what you are feeling and going through with your spouse.
  3. Seek out advice and talk to friends and family who have been through similar events.
  4. Give yourself time to adapt to the changes and the new environment.
  5. Put off making any other big decisions until you feel ready to do so.
  6. Pursue your interests and hobbies, now that you have far more time on your hands!
  7. Follow a regular self-care routine, eat healthy and make sure to exercise regularly.
  8. And seek professional help if you feel unwell.

To conclude, somethings you should remember and keep in mind are:

  1. Empty Nest Syndrome refers to the grief that many parents feel when their children move out of their parent’s home.
  2. Research suggests this condition is more common in women, than it is in men.
  3. And seek professional help if you feel unwell or overwhelmed.
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