Preparing to Be an Empty Nester
As you raise your children, you get to see them go from toddlers to young adults in your home. You actively work to instill a sense of independence and high self-esteem in your children. So as the youngest is about to leave home for their next adventure, they are not the only one entering new phases. You as a parent could also be experiencing some mixed emotions. That combination of being proud of them for succeeding and sadness they are leaving is called empty nest syndrome.
You begin to spend your days wondering what you're missing out on and what parts of their lives you won't be there for. Their safety is always on your mind. You begin to wonder if they are really ready for this. While it is not something you can become clinically diagnosed with, these feelings of sadness and loss are real and deserve to be recognized. It's important to know some preventative methods and ways to overcome empty nest syndrome.
Image via Flickr by Stephen Duncan.
Preventing Empty Nest Syndrome
According to the Mayo Clinic, if your last child is about to leave home, there are things you can do to plan for the fight against empty nest syndrome.
Look for new opportunities in your professional or personal life. Identifying these areas for growth help to make sure you both have a smooth transition over time before things get hectic. The more you are involved, the more gradual the impact your child's leaving will have.
Healthy boundaries. The earlier you can create healthy relationships with your children, the easier it will be for both of you to move away from each other in the future. It will be less of a blow, and an easy transition into having more adult relationships. Be supportive and helpful, but to a point.
Prepare them. One of the most prevailing fears in empty nesters is that their children just aren't ready enough. Before they leave, take the time to teach them how to do things they may have taken for granted before like cooking, dealing with roommates or neighbors, budgeting, or changing a tire.
How To Cope
Sometimes, even the most ready people can be subject to the negative emotions and stress associated with empty nest syndrome. If you start to feel it creep up on you, keep these things in mind to soften the blow and help you move past it.
Accept the timing. The way you, your siblings, or your older children handled their timetable are all different. Comparing the youngest or last to move out to other people will only make them feel like you don't see them as an individual.
Keep in touch. The best way to see how they are doing is to make time to check in. Make an effort to text, visit, or call. Just be careful to remain respectful of their schedule. It's not personal if they can't answer right away or call every night. It may take a while to adjust to their new schedule.
The most important thing is to remember your value. While your circumstances may have changed, you are still capable of defining a new purpose and fulfilling it. Check out some of our advice on reinventing yourself.
Reach out to family and friends. Whenever you're having a tough time, your loved ones are one of your best sources of support.
Stay positive. Having more time to take care of yourself, putting in the time needed to fulfill your passions, and rekindling relationships are all options now that you have more time alone.
The good news is that your children moving out is not all bad. Research has shown that empty nest syndrome may have positive effects on the family such as fewer conflicts, and if more than one parent or guardian lived with the child, it can offer an opportunity to reconnect and strengthen their own relationship. Many parents in these studies say that seeing their children succeed and move on to new parts of their life evokes more joy and pride than anxiety and loss. This space allows for more mature and adult relationships with your children.
Empty nest syndrome is a difficult thing to go through. While there are ways to prevent it, ways to cope with it, and even some positive side effects, particular bouts may bleed into other parts of your life. If you feel the problem is worsening, it could be time to see a therapist or seek professional health. Prolonged bouts of stress and anxiety can have serious negative short- and long-term effects.