Empty Nest Syndrome: Coping Strategies For Parents When Kids Leave Home

For many parents, the day has finally arrived when your children are leaving for college university (or move away for a job or relationship).  It is a time of mixed emotions.  On one hand, there is pride in their accomplishments, and there is excitement for their future and all the possibilities ahead. However, there is also the pang of heartbreak and loneliness as the nest you’ve built starts to feel a bit empty. In this blog post, we’ll explore what empty nest syndrome is, some of its common symptoms, and effective strategies to cope with this major life transition.  It is important to recognize this stage of life and the reactions you might have, as normal.

1.  What is Empty Nest Syndrome?: This is the name used to describe feelings of sadness, grief, loss that parents may feel when their children move out.  Parents may display feelings of sadness, irritability, loneliness, fear and anxiety. They may feel a loss of purpose and a loss of control, which can be disconcerting and confusing — especially when we also feel happy and excited for our children. This can affect both men and women.

2. What’s important: Know that this is normal, and show yourself some compassion. It’s important not to minimize what is happening.  This is a major life transition and you may well feel at a loss to explain the power of your emotions.

3) How to cope: There are several ways to start coping with this change. In part, it means embracing the change – this new stage can open doors for you too.  Here are a few strategies:

  • Use this as a time to renew relationships, engage in personal growth and hobbies, pursue new or old interests.
  • Stay connected to your children.  While in some ways, we become less important as parents, they still need us.  While it’s important to work on ways to let go of the control we once had and stop any helicopter parenting, there are positive ways we can check in with them and be there for them for encouragement and support as they work on adulting.
  • This time can be hard on marriages, especially if children were the glue holding it together. This might be a good time to see a therapist or find other ways to work on the marriage or re-evaluate your goals.
  • Seek support for yourself — through a therapist, friends and family.  Start building a support system to get you through this period of time.


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