It’s fundamentally the natural order of things – If you have children, you naturally then raise them until they’re able to go through the world on their own (or until they are 18 and move away to college).
It’s tough work, spending nearly two decades or more, teaching them right from wrong, but many parents find that the toughest part of parenthood occurs when their children grow up and leave their homes, so to say, leaving parents with the often-dreaded empty nest syndrome.
But what exactly is empty nest syndrome? Is it truly something that can be easily diagnosed; or is it truly just about learning to adjust to a new situation? Read along our article to find out more about empty nest syndrome, and what you can do about it.
Empty nest syndrome is the feeling of emptiness, anxiety, or loss that fills you after your children leave your home and make their way out in the world. In medical terms, it would be diagnosed as something called an adjustment disorder, falling into the same class as other life transitions such as the loss of a job, a divorce, the loss of a parent, or a move to a new city. The underlying feature of these events is the deep impact they have on our identity and the ability to fall grounded in the familiar.
The symptoms of empty nest syndrome are those typically associated with anxiety and depression. They include the following:
As parents, people want their children to launch into the world. For years they have emptied their hearts and souls in their departure and have often fantasized about the freedom and opportunities they will enjoy when they had only themselves to attend to. But when the time comes for them to truly leave, many parents often find themselves overwhelmed by sadness, fear, and a deep sense of loss.
Our children are tightly wired into our brains. They come from us and will remain with us forever. Still, when they leave the home, many parents find that their neurophysiology has a strong reaction that gets played out in their unconscious and dream life.
Because many parents never feel like they have done enough for their children, the void left behind by a child can aggravate these feelings.
Raising kids can be rough on a marriage. After the children move out of the house, many couples find that in the years they’ve devoted to raising their children they’ve grown apart. This, of course, is natural as the physical, emotional, and financial demands of child nurturing are extraordinary, he explains.
The empty nest syndrome is painful, and it involves feeling uncomfortable and ungrounded for a while—several years sometimes too. To manage this discomfort, parents often find themselves reaching for outside things to self soothe and fill the void their child left behind. The most common of these substances are food, material things, and mind-altering substances like alcohol and drugs.
First and foremost, if you know you are experiencing empty nest syndrome, it is nothing to be ashamed of. It is perfectly normal for you to be feeling your feelings, Human beings are biologically tightly wired to protect and nurture our children. Of course, we are bound to feel out of sorts and diminished when they leave our home.
That being said, try pushing yourself into concrete action steps to move forward with your life. Re-join in your community. Take a class online or at your local college or area. Volunteer at services, for example, a local animal shelter. Start a new hobby with watercolor painting. The motive is to move in lockstep with your child in finding your place out in the world.
Also, it is advised that don’t keep your feelings and emotions bottled up. Talk about this transitional period of your life with your partner and your loved ones. In tough times, we are allowed to discover the gifts in our lives. At the top of this list are forming and maintaining meaningful relationships with other human beings.
And lastly, keep in mind that this too shall pass. When times are challenging and you think they will last forever, believe us, they don’t.