Every parent knows that their children will eventually grow up and move out of the family home. It’s not something you think about when they’re born, but it doesn’t take long to see them growing, changing, and becoming more independent. It’s what every parent should want for their children. Raising kids who can cope with the changes and challenges of growing up is a big job, and one of the best things you can do is a parent.
Still, that doesn’t make it easy to watch them fly out of the nest on their own.
Even if you’re excited for your grown child to start their life, you might not be sure what to do with yourself. Your kids know how to cope, but what about you? The house will be quieter, you’ll have more free time, and you won’t have as many responsibilities as you did for years of raising your child.
Unfortunately, that can lead to empty nest syndrome. What is that, exactly, and how can you cope with it once your children leave the house?
Do You Have Empty Nest Syndrome?
While empty nest syndrome doesn’t require a clinical diagnosis, it’s a very real thing. According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s a “phenomenon in which parents experience feelings of sadness and loss when the last child leaves home.” You might even feel as though you’ve lost a part of your own identity, which can create more confusion and sadness.
It’s normal to be a little sad when your child moves out, but some people can move on faster than others. If you’re having an exceptionally hard time with it, you could have empty nest syndrome. Some of the common signs to be aware of include:
- A loss of purpose
- Feelings of frustration over a lack of control
- Emotional distress
- Anxiety about your children
It’s also not uncommon to experience marital issues when your children leave home, too. You might be spending more one-on-one time with your spouse than you’re used to, and the stress you’re already feeling can make things tense. But, you can use this time as an opportunity to get closer and reconnect. Have date nights, travel together, and recommit your relationship. You might even consider having a simple vow renewal ceremony with family and friends as you strengthen your bond once again while stepping into a new chapter of life.
While empty nest syndrome can be hard to deal with, there are healthy ways to cope with it whether you’re on your own or with a partner. Let’s look at how you can handle this major change.
How to Handle Your Next Chapter
Self-care is more important than ever when you’re dealing with empty nest syndrome. Now, you finally have time to make yourself a priority. So, don’t be afraid to do some of the things you’ve always wanted. Whether it’s traveling, trying new experiences, or even moving, now is a perfect time. Moving can be a great way to officially mark a new chapter in your life. It’s not uncommon for people who no longer have children in the home to downsize. But, it’s also understandable that you might get cold feet. You might not want to leave those memories behind.
One of the best ways to work through your hesitation is to make a pro and con list about moving. Additionally, try talking to a neutral third party about what might be best as you move forward.
If you don’t want to move but you’re willing to try something different, a home remodel is a great option. Everything from repainting to completely changing different rooms can refresh your outlook. If your children left some of their things behind, it’s also a good excuse to declutter your home and get rid of things that won’t get used anymore. Decluttering has several benefits, including helping with anxiety and stress. It’s a great way to make your mental health a priority if you’re sad about your children leaving.
If your children are all out of the house, you might be nearing retirement age. Once you do, you’ll have even more time to do the things you want, like:
- Starting a business
- Meeting new people
- Learning a new language
- Starting a new hobby
Take the time each day to do something you love. Empty nest syndrome can make you feel like you’ve lost your sense of purpose, so finding it again in different ways is important – and entirely possible!
Stay Connected With Your Kids
Just because your children are out of the house doesn’t mean they’re out of your lives. You might be able to make the transition easier on yourself by staying connected with them. Technology makes that easier than ever – something we all learned even more about throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
Talk to your grown children about regular phone calls or Zoom meetings. Stay involved in their lives (while giving them the freedom and space they deserve), and make sure they always know they’re welcome to visit.
Empty nest syndrome isn’t easy to deal with. But, when you look at it as another chapter, rather than a void that needs to be filled, you can find healthier ways to cope. You can use this time as an opportunity to discover who you are at this stage of life and commit to living your life to the fullest.