Empty nest syndrome is the name given to a psychological condition that can affect parents around the time that their children leave home (more commonly women because for 20 or more years motherhood has meant being defined in a particular role. You may wonder what your role is now it’s not “mum” all day. It’s a huge identity shift).
It's most common in autumn, when vast numbers of teenagers go to university. It can also happen when a child moves in with their partner because it is a clear signal that parents are no longer needed in the ways they once were.
It's natural for a parent to feel some sadness when children leave home. Indeed, it's normal to have a little weep now and again – or even go into the absent child's bedroom and sit there for a while in an attempt to feel closer to him or her (which I confess to have done. I’ve even felt sadness that that hand towel my son could never put back tidy on the towel rail would be sat there perfectly tidy. I never imagined that I’d miss those things that used to drive me crazy!)
Empty-nest syndrome is a period of transition – and when you throw the menopause and maybe increasingly dependent elderly parents into the mix, it can feel like a grim one. It means facing up to the fact that this phase of your life is over and the next phase – of old age and retirement – is beginning. No wonder people feel down!
The symptoms of Empty Nest Syndrome
1. Feelings of sadness
2. Crying excessively
3. Feelings of loss
4. Not wanting to talk or mix with friends or family
5. Feelings of uselessness or that your life has ended
6. Feeling overwhelmed
7. Change in sleeping and eating patterns
8. Spending obsessive amounts of time in the child’s bedroom
Even if you don’t suffer from any of the above symptoms keep reading, if your child is about to fly the nest or has just flown the nest, here are some ideas you may want to include in your new life.
Top Ten Tips to cope with Empty Nest Syndrome:
1. Plan ahead
Prepare Your Child: It’s easier to let go if you are confident as parents that your child is ready to hit the big wide world. Help them learn to prepare meals, do the laundry, balance a bank book before they leave home. There is more to life than a take out pizza!
Prepare Yourself: Rearing a child means that at sometime you expect them to leave the nest, it is a logical step which both parents and children are usually willing follow, it is therefore logical that with less washing, cooking, and playing taxi, you will have more time on your hands. Make a plan to fill this constructively before the time comes. Remember also that you will have a little more cash to play with too!
2. Do Nothing
The first 24 hours are always the strangest, plan to do nothing but rest, relax and recuperate. Things are about to change and you will need time to adjust. Part of the adjustment process is to take it all in without judgment or criticism. You have worked hard for the past decade or more now its is ‘Me’ time and you deserve it!
3. Get help
If you are feeling any of the symptoms in the list above, get help. Particularly if your symptoms are severe and last for two weeks of more. Talk to your GP, partner, friend or a counsellor. A problem shared is always a problem halved. Don’t bottle up your loss, acknowledge it for what it is so that the healing can take place.
4. Check for the menopause!
With all the other stresses at midlife, your symptoms may not be ENS it may just be hormonal. Speak with your GP and check for the menopause.
5. Use the internet
We are very fortunate in today’s world to have everything at our fingertips. You can schedule to talk with anyone in the world for free via computer. Keep in contact with you children so that you know they are safe. Come to some agreement so that you are both happy with the amount of weekly calls. Of course tell them you miss them, but don’t make a big deal of it, you don’t want them worrying about you! Also use the internet to research a new passion, local charity needing help, new education course which is also tip number nine.
6. Re-kindle your relationship
Get to know your partner again. This is a great time to put your love life back on track. No kids means no excuses! You can even go back to walking around the house naked! Get out those recipes for your favourite meals, put the candles out, watch a movie, just spend some quality time together.
7. Pen and Paper
Keep a journal, begin by including the good job you did in child-rearing, all those positive memories, then use it daily to help keep track of your goals, achievements, and insights. Refer to it often so that you can be proud of what you have achieved. Spend a day and create a dream board, with pictures of all the things you want to achieve in your second life, display it where you can see it every day.
8. Avoid BIG changes
Although you may feel like it, this is not the time to get divorced or move home! Give yourself time to find your feet before making any drastic changes. When you are emotionally ‘unstable’ and making big decisions it often leads to regret.
9. Try on new hats
As midlife women you will have worn many hats in your life: mother, sister, wife, daughter, cook, nurse, taxi driver, sex kitten, cleaner, entertainer, etc I am sure you can fill in hundreds more! Now is the time to put aside some of those hats and try on something new, so you can shape your new identity, that isn’t mainly about being a mum. Perhaps it’s a new job, planning your dream holiday, helping a local charity, getting fit and eating healthy. Now is the time to experiment.
10. Be You
This is the prefect time to explore your passion in life, to focus on what you want. I am sure you have sat and listened to the flight safety procedure often enough to know that in the case on an emergency you must put on your oxygen mask before helping others. This is something that we all need to do on a daily basis and now is the time to start doing it.
This is a challenging time for you. Nothing will ever be the same again. But just because everything's different, doesn't mean it can't be good. The world is your child’s oyster, but it’s also yours too, go live it!
Partly taken from https://www.fabafterfifty.co.uk/2011/10/26/how-to-cope-with-empty-nest-syndrome/