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How to deal with Empty Nest Syndrome?

How to deal with Empty Nest Syndrome?

Sanjana is 18 years old and is the only daughter of Mrs Gill. She recently left for Singapore for her graduate studies. For so long, Mrs Gill’s world revolved around her daughter and now that she has gone, she is feeling equally excited and sad. She’s happy that finally her daughter is entering the real world on her own. But is also feeling low, as she doesn’t know where her life is headed too…. 

Most middle-aged couples would relate to Mrs Gill’s experience, as they have themselves undergone something similar in their lives. As parents, much of their life circles around their kids, and when they are finally going away, they face sudden void and loss of purpose in life. Letting go of them can be hard and painful experience. 

Psychologists call this as the ‘empty nest syndrome’.

What Empty Nester Means?

Empty nest syndrome refers to a host of indicators that emerge in people when their children leave the home for better prospects and their nest becomes ‘empty’.

7 Symptoms of Empty Nest Syndrome

Some of the most common signs and symptoms of empty nest syndrome are:

  1. Low mood because the children are no more around
  2. Feeling anxious thinking about the future
  3. Constant worry/stress about the well-being of their child
  4. Experiencing loneliness or withdrawal from others
  5. Identity crisis 
  6. Loss of interest in doing anything
  7. Disturbed sleep and appetite pattern

How to deal with Empty Nest Syndrome?

Most of the parents are unprepared to deal with the emotional and psychological consequences of their children moving out. However, some tips that can really help to ease out the transition for the parents are listed below. 

  1. Acknowledge and Accept: Often parents can’t comprehend the new reality of their lives. Resisting the challenges and positives the new role brings about only paves way to resentment and despair within.

  2. Mindset matters: Our thoughts have a strong influence on our feelings and behaviour. Reframing one’s perspective is the key. Continuing to think of this time as being lonely and away from kids is only going to add to the low mood and negative feelings you are experiencing.

  3. Stay connected with children: Make active use of various gadgets and technological services to stay in touch with your children. Plan vacations or holidays so that everyone can meet and have some family time together.

  4. Avoid hovering over the child: Some parents in order to keep their anxieties at bay, would tend to watch over every aspect of their child’s well-being (incessant phone calls, scheduling doctor appointments, checking their eating/sleeping pattern). Resist the urge to continuously check up on them. Understand this is the time for them grow their wings. Hovering around them will only have negative consequences.

  5. Engage yourself: Try to utilize the time in hand by pursuing long lost hobbies or learning a new skill. Try to extract maximum benefits of the current situation of life. Try on some ideas randomly to see what you like or revisit your childhood and catch up on hobbies that you liked doing back then.

  6. Get to know your partner again: After dedicating years of hardship on raising their children, couples are suddenly left with themselves. Make use of this time effectively by spending some quality time with them. Go out for dinner together or plan a fun activity together on weekends.

  7. Seek support: Reconnect with your friends and family members. Often sharing experiences is what helps parents realise they are not alone in all of this. And always remember, when the going gets tough and you realise you are not able to cope from the sudden change, seek  professional help.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take to get over empty nest syndrome?

Empty Nest Syndrome is not a clinical diagnosis. It is a transitional phase in which parents need to adjust to their changing role and identity. There is no definite time limit to “get over” it.

However, dealing with it becomes easier when one employs healthy coping strategies like taking care of one’s health, staying in touch with the children, socializing, engaging in hobbies, reconnecting with partner and many more. The sooner parents accept the change, the easier it becomes to lead a happier and healthier life.

What do you do if you have empty nest syndrome?

1. Try and work on developing acceptance towards the change.

2. Keep in touch with children through online media and plan holidays as often as possible.

3. Engage in hobbies and interesting activities with your partner or your friends.

4. Understand that being free of parental duties does not mean a lack of purpose. You could look at the situation as a new phase of life with new and exciting opportunities.

5. Seek professional help if distress continues or becomes unmanageable.

Is empty nest syndrome common?

Yes. Empty Nest Syndrome is very common. It is prevalent throughout the world although the prevalence rates would differ from region to region. Asian countries typically belong to a collectivistic culture where family members are expected to provide support to each other. With globalization, joint family systems are disintegrating which is giving rise to several smaller families. Children often move to other cities for better employment prospects thus leaving the parents alone. Situations like these are unavoidable and require advance planning and preparation by both parents and children to make this transition smooth for everyone.

Can empty nest syndrome cause anxiety?

Yes. Signs of anxiety are very commonly observed amongst empty nesters. They may experience excessive worrying about the well being of their child, restlessness, sleep or appetite disturbance and physiological distress like headache and bodyache etc. Some amount of anxiety is normal and expected as this is a major life change. However, if the problems persist or worsen, professional help must be sought.

How old are empty nesters?

Empty nesters typically fall in the middle aged group (50-60 year olds). This age group generally includes individuals who are about to retire, with older children looking forward to settling down financially and becoming independent. Divorced, single or widowed parents generally face more difficulty in adjusting as compared to two parent families where partners provide support to each other and help cope with the situation.

Samvedna Senior Care offers online counselling services for old age to handle the feeling of loneliness and isolation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. You can reach out to them on 9810887895 via call or WhatsApp.

Article By: Priyanka Bantwal, Consultant Psychologist, Samvedna Senior Care

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