The empty nest syndrome is the feeling that parents have of sadness, longing, loss and pain when the children become independent from the family home. The main symptom is a feeling of sadness, it can lead to depression and is more common in single women.
At first you can think that these feelings are completely normal after the departure of a child, because they are many years at his side, caring and educating him, so it is normal to feel distress when leaving home.
You are right, feel all those emotions are normal before the departure of a child, the problem arises when such feelings interfere with the daily life of parents, preventing them from carrying out their lives normally.
Empty Nest Syndrome
This syndrome is not developed exclusively by parents, but also by guardians or relatives in charge of raising the child.
The empty nest syndrome is more frequent now than it was a few decades ago. This is because in the past families lived in the same town or in the same neighborhood, where they stayed together, shared daily activities and saw each other on a daily basis.
Currently, it is less common to reside near your parents. In case of living in a town, the young people leave to study or live in the cities, and, in case of living in the city, the children look for neighborhoods that suit their needs, regardless of where their parents live.
You can find this problem in both men and women, although it is usually more frequent in women.
What causes empty nest syndrome?
Each person has individual characteristics that may or may not favor the development of certain problems, syndromes or pathologies.
Next, you will discover if you have some of those elements that can make you more likely to develop empty nest syndrome.
Be a person whose only function in life has been to take care of your child.
Do not accept that your child has grown, matured and is independent.
That you had a very intimate relationship with him.
That you believe that your son is your property.
Let it become independent.
Let your main values in life be the family or the care of your child.
That you do not have the right coping strategies.
Have a little social support.
That you have a low cultural level.
Be widowed, separated, divorced or single.
That you have menopause.
That you are retired.
Consequences of empty nest syndrome
When a father or mother develops the syndrome of the empty nest, there are a series of consequences in the person that considerably complicate their day to day.
If you find yourself in this situation it is very common for you to feel:
That you want to be alone
That you cry frequently.
That you feel weak.
That you do not see meaning in your life.
That you lose interest in what before interested you.
All these feelings are compatible with the feeling of freedom and relief felt by many parents with the progress of their children, which is more normal than you may think at first.
It is also very normal for you to develop:
In this context it is normal that you have a continued concern for how your child will be, that you hope that he will return, that you complain about the situation and that you feel disappointed and abandoned because he has left.
It is also very common for parents to blame the emancipation of the couples of their children with whom they become independent, which generates more problems than those already mentioned.
Unfortunately, the mismanagement of the independence of a child can lead to the emergence of ideas of parents wanting to disappear, sometimes leading to suicidal ideas.
There are certain factors that can aggravate all the consequences that we have just enumerated, such as your child going to live in another autonomous community or country, where the chances of seeing you are reduced considerably.
10 tips to deal with empty nest syndrome
Next, I will explain 10 tips to overcome a problem that affects many families today and that generates a lot of pain.
1-Assume the independence of your child
To be able to face the independence of your child you have to accept that he is already older, autonomous and wants to live his life, just as you did in your time.
The family has been the main pillar of support for your son for many years, but there comes a time when he wants to emancipate himself and start living his life independently, be it with friends, partner or alone.
Do not worry, the family will continue to be a very important support in your life, the difference is that you now reside in different homes.
It is very important not to blame couples or friends for the emancipation of your child, since who has decided to leave has been him, regardless of who he leaves with.
Remember: the couple or friends are not guilty of anything.
How many years have you been living with your child? Maybe twenty, twenty-five or thirty?
They are many years next to a person, and not just any person, but someone who you have loved, pampered, educated and taught before you had the use of reason. Your son is not anybody, he is one of those few people for whom you would give life.
For this reason I ask for patience, because when someone so important happens to live with you to become independent and, therefore, see him less frequently, the emotions that emerge are painful and the situation is difficult.
Be patient, adapting to changes takes a while and more if the changes are important and have to do with your child.
It is important that you take the time you need to reflect on what is happening to you. For this you can ask yourself questions like the ones that come next:
Why does my son’s pain hurt so much?
What role does my son have in my life?
How will my life be without my son by my side?
These questions can help you discover why you do not accept your child’s departure and what concerns or fears are behind it.
Maybe you discover that your child filled a void inside you, that taking care of you was a way of not taking on other responsibilities, that it helped to keep the family together, which was one of your main supports …
Realizing all this is the first step you must take for your improvement.
It is very important that you know what is happening to you. For this reason you must inform yourself, either through articles like this, books, videos … with the aim of identifying your problem: the empty nest syndrome.
Identifying the problem will help you to normalize all that tide of emotions that you are feeling at this moment of your life, it will help you to realize that you are still the father of your child, even if it becomes independent, it will help you to find yourself better with yourself …
In short, to improve you have to know what is happening to you.
5-Keep in touch with your child
There are many parents who feel abandoned, unloved, rejected and hurt when their child becomes independent, so they unconsciously move away from him. This only aggravates the existing problem.
If you are in this situation do not stop maintaining contact with your child: call him, visit him and he will come to visit you. It does not matter how you communicate, the important thing is that you keep in touch and maintain the relationship you have always had.
Keeping in contact will help you to realize that you still love them as they did before, even if you no longer live together, that your son and you are still your father, that the relationship does not have to change due to the fact that he no longer lives at home…
6-Redefine the family relationship
After the departure of a child, family relationships can be altered.
In many cases parents return to live as a couple after decades of family life, which can lead to problems of a couple that had not yet arisen because the family care center was the son.
If the existing relationship between the parents is very damaged, it is advisable to go to a couple’s therapy.
To avoid reaching this point remember that forming a family does not mean you have to leave the life of a partner you had before having children, but now you have two plots to take care of: the relationship and family relationship.
If you take care of both plots, when your child becomes independent you will not have problems in living alone with your partner again.
At first it may be a bit difficult for you to do the new situation, since you have been living with your family for a long time, but if you have taken care of your relationship, you will get used to it quickly and enjoy the time you have now.
7-Lean on others
The empty nest syndrome translates into a series of difficult emotions to carry, such as loneliness, grief, longing or sadness derived from the emancipation of the child.
In order to overcome this difficult moment I advise you to lean on your family and friends, that is, on those people with whom you feel comfortable and willing to listen to how you feel.
In case you do not have the necessary social support, look for a group therapy or a support group that suits your needs and in which you feel comfortable.
As Freud said: “Modern science has not yet produced a reassuring medication as effective as a few kind words are.”
If such kind words do not find them in your close social circle, do not worry, you can find them outside. Do it, it will help you.
8-Develop new interests
Maybe until now all your tasks revolve around your child: make your meal, order your room, wash your clothes … and that you do not have time for other activities.
At this point we find something positive to the fact that your son has been emancipated. You do not have to carry out all those activities anymore, so you have time for everything you’ve always wanted to do, but until now you have not been able to.
Invest all that free time in carrying out those activities that you had pending, in developing new interests, in practicing your hobbies, in spending more time with your partner, with friends …
The objective of this point is that you progressively occupy the free time you have obtained after the departure of your child and that you occupy it in activities that you like and that generate pleasure and satisfaction.
Set goals in your day to day, so that you get out of bed with a goal to achieve and desire to achieve it.
The goals will vary depending on the tastes, can range from finishing a book, make a model or go to the gym, to socialize more with neighbors or get a job.
The important thing is that you set goals or occupations that motivate you and you want to do them, which will have a very positive effect on your mood and family relationships.
10-Ask for help
Maybe the advice I have given you is not enough to overcome the problem you are going through. Do not worry, not everyone improves with the same tools. Maybe in your case you have to go to a professional.
Also Read: Paruresis: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments
Looking for a psychologist or a group therapy to join and go regularly, I am sure that the results will be very positive both for you and for the relationship you have with your son, partner, family and friends.
The beneficial effects of a therapy affect many areas of your life.
And remember: “the family grows when the children make their own”.
And how have you acted to overcome the syndrome of the empty nest?