Empty Nest Syndrome may not be an official diagnosis but it is both common and normal. You have children and dedicate so much time and energy to raising them. In many ways, they become the driving force behind your daily life. But, as they grow, your kids develop independence and autonomy. Then one day, they move on. How in the world can this not be a major transition for a parent?
Like any change or loss, you will need to grieve. A chapter has ended and a part of you has been altered. At the same time, you have one of life’s greatest gifts: a chance to reinvent yourself.
Signs and Symptoms of Empty Nest Syndrome
The most common symptoms involve:
- Feeling lost and without purpose
- Fear and anxiety about your child’s well-being
- General sadness
- Confusion about having less control
- Stress with your spouse
Of course, an empty nest hits each person differently. Some parents may be more susceptible than others, e.g.
- Those with marital issues may find that emptiness makes the problems more obvious.
- “Helicopter parents” created an identity based on their parental status.
- Any parent who stayed at home and spent long periods of time with their children.
- For single parents, that nest may feel especially empty.
Can Empty Nest Syndrome Turn Into Depression?
The possibility exists and is worth monitoring. Familiarize yourself with the symptoms of a depressive episode and watch out for red flags like:
- You feel worthless without daily parental duties to tend to
- Life lacks meaning, purpose, or hope
- You’re no longer interested in activities that once excited you (including sex)
- You put less effort into hygiene, housecleaning, personal appearance, self-care, etc.
- Sleep disturbances
- Angry outbursts
- Thoughts of self-harm, death, dying, or suicide
Tips for Coping With Empty Nest Syndrome
Work Out a Plan To Stay in Touch With Your Children
Give them space, of course, but you also have every right to want some regular contact. Whether it’s in person or digitally, work together to set boundaries and agree on a plan.
Try New Things
- Set new goals
- Try out new hobbies and interests
- Make new friends
- Reconnect with old friends
- Look into switching your job or even your career
Aim Some Renewed Focus on Yourself
Without a child in your home, you have plenty of time and energy to aim inward. Develop a solid self-care regimen. Join a gym, play a sport, or connect with a walking group. Take time to pick out healthy recipes and enjoy the process from shopping to cooking to eating well.
Reimagine Your Relationship
If you have a partner, this is a big change for them, too. Grab this opportunity to team up and create new habits, patterns, and preferences. Redecorate your home. Socialize more. And rekindle that romantic flame!
Don’t Just Focus on the Negative
Sure, for example, you miss your child and you find yourself worrying about them out there in the world. But there’s more to it than that. You can celebrate their new accomplishments and independence. Take joy in watching them thrive and be sure to watch yourself thrive, too. After all, you can also have some new accomplishments and independence. Why not make yourself a gratitude journal and keep track of all you’re grateful for on a daily basis?
No One Expects You to Figure it All Out
Life’s big transitions don’t come with instructions. There’s no how-to manual for parents whose children have grown up and moved out. If you find yourself struggling with this change, you’re not alone. First, most parents deal with this. Secondly, help is available. Let’s connect and talk about Empty Nest Syndrome and how to manage this new stage of your life.