It doesn’t have to be when your last child leaves home. Empty nest syndrome can be experienced when any of your fledglings fly towards their independent life.
However, it can hit especially hard when the last child leaves home. One morning you wake up and feel as though you have no purpose in life. For years, you and your husband, wife or partner have dedicated your lives to bringing up your children and now, they’ve flown the nest. You feel as though you are in the middle of an identity crisis. It can be even harder-hitting if you are a single parent and literally being left with an empty home.
It’s a really difficult time with a variety of emotions sending ripples through your home. These feelings mark the end of an era and to get through this tricky time, you are going to have to STOP thinking about the situation being an “ending” – and START seeing it as a “beginning”.
New beginnings – what can you do?
So how do you turn the feelings of loss and lack of purpose around? Even more importantly, how do you ensure that this huge change doesn’t break your relationship?
It’s important to understand and acknowledge your feelings around empty nest syndrome. You have to realise that you are not the only person feeling this way. For some, the sense of loss can lead to depression, alcoholism or relationship problems, so face your thoughts head-on. If you need to talk things through with a professional, a lifecoach or counsellor could set you on the right path, putting you back in control of your thoughts. Take a look in The Hug Directory to find an expert
BBC Radio 2’s Jo Whiley suggests leaving the radio on in the background to give the house an atmosphere, so it feels less empty. Great advice Jo!
If you know when your child is going to leave home, start to prepare for that moment. Remember to focus on all the good work you have done to ensure they are ready for their life ahead. You are going to miss your child but it’s going to be a chance for new family adventures too. You will undoubtedly be worried about your child’s safety, but just remember, you have done the best job you can, and as you did, we learn from our mistakes.
Ensure the lines of communication remain good with your children and don’t criticise or be too opinionated. In this way it’s more likely that they will feel they can reach out to you for advice if and when they slip-up.
Keep in touch with your children by text, whatsapp or make a call so they know you are always there for them. Even a “like” on an instagram post will show you care. Don’t get annoyed when they take an absolute age to get back to you as they are probably having fun and getting on with the new life you prepared them for.
Start your new life
The despair and worry can begin to be alleviated when you start to get your own life back back on track, so where do you start?
Tell your partner how you are feeling. There’s nothing worse than being with someone who is down in the dumps and you just don’t know why. Communicating will make you feel so much better and your partner may reveal that they are actually feeling the same way too.
Start to think about stuff you can do together with your partner. Cook a favourite meal, go to the cinema, watch a film and talk about how it feels to have your own space again. Maybe get some projects underway.
Dreams and plans
What drew you to each other in the first place? Can any mutual interests be resurrected? Being a role model for your children is just as important when they leave home. Show them what life is all about as an adult; you have interests too.
Think about the extra money you might have in your pocket without the daily expense of children. Maybe it’s time to go on that holiday you have always dreamt of, or take up a hobby or evening class.
It can be difficult to get as intimate as you might like when there are other young adults in the house, so now could be the time to relight the fire and swing from the chandeliers once again!
Are you a single-parent?
If you are a single-parent, start to think about how you can carve out your new life. Maybe you didn’t feel keen on dating when you had a child living with you; it’s never to late to find romance.
Goodbye empty nest, hello brand new life!
Rework friendships, maybe you can spend more time with friends and get involved in new hobbies. Ask your child if their bedroom can be remodelled into being a welcoming guest room as well as still being their room. This is easily achievable, especially with the availability of adaptable bedroom storage today. Is it actually you who wants to keep all their old toys on display?
The Group Hug’s Recommended Read about Empty Nest Syndrome is by Celia Dodd – a journalist with over 30 years experience predominantly writing about family situations. Celia has written for The Independent and The Times newspapers, and magazines including the Radio Times, Psychologies, Country Living, Good Housekeeping and Reader’s Digest.
The main thing is to have a plan and future goals. As you flap your wings into another stage of life, you’ll soon be wondering what the fuss was all about!
Find out more about Mental Wellbeing via The NHS