Empty nest syndrome is a general feeling of grief and loneliness parents or guardians may feel when their children leave home. Because an adult child moving out is seen as a normal and healthy event, the symptoms of empty nest syndrome often go unrecognized ("Empty Nest Syndrome," 2010). For parents, this can result in depression, as well as a loss of purpose. When their children finally “leave the nest”, parents must begin to adjust their lives accordingly.
While all parents are susceptible to experiencing empty nest syndrome, there are factors that contribute to some parents being more likely to experience it than others such as:
- Finding change to be stressful rather than refreshing
- Having an unstable or unsatisfactory marriage
- Being a full-time parent as opposed to a parent who has other duties such as employment
- Parents who do not believe their child is ready to be on his or her own
- People whose identity was based around being a parent
Symptoms of empty nest syndrome include, but are not limited to:
- Loss of purpose
- Worry, stress, or anxiety over the welfare of the child
- Feelings of rejection
How to Recover From Empty Nest Syndrome
- Prepare for the departure. If you're expecting your children to be leaving within the next year, take this time to check that they are aware of how to do the basic essentials for caring for themselves alone. Make sure they know how to wash their clothes, cook for themselves, deal with neighbor disputes, balance a checkbook, negotiate for good deals when buying things, and know how to appreciate the value of money. While some of these things will improve with practice, it's important to talk through and show how to do some of the basics so that they're not left completely adrift. Using a how-to site like wikiHow for explanations on household tasks and lifestyle issues can be helpful if needed.
Focus on some of the positive points of your kids moving out. Focusing on some of the positive changes resulting from your children moving out can ease the sense of loss considerably when you weigh up what you've gained. While this doesn't belittle the importance of your sadness and the big transition you and your children are going through, it does help you to try and see the brighter side of your future. Some of the positive points include: