The empty nest syndrome is a set of emotional and physical symptoms that occur in parents when their children (usually it usually appears with the last one) leave home. It usually appears in only one of the parents but sometimes it can occur in both simultaneously. The person has a great feeling of sadness and loneliness, as well as a great sense of emptiness and uncertainty.
It occurs because after spending so many years playing the role of parents , they suddenly find a great void that they have difficulty filling, when previously most of their time was dedicated to taking care of their children. Parents can experience this new situation in different ways. Some will experience it as a liberation, they are aware that they have fulfilled their role as parents because they have helped their children to grow as people and to be more independent. Others may end up developing these negative feelings and the syndrome occurs, which if ignored can lead to a more serious disorder. As a general rule, those parents who have educated their children in a more autonomous way they will live this evolutionary stage less dramatically.
Faced with these changes, the rest of the family has to learn to readjust and organize again . For example, when the children lived at home most of the conversations in the couple would revolve around them. When leaving home, the couple may find themselves not knowing what to do, say, or how to spend time together.
HOW TO RECOVER FROM EMPTY NEST SYNDROME
In reality, empty nest syndrome is a stage that all parents go through. The real problem appears when we lengthen that initial discomfort, we do not treat it at its roots and it ends up leading to depression . If this happens, we are talking about a more serious disorder and the best thing would be to go to a psychologist specialized in the subject, not to let it pass more. The depressions are one and would not “recover” one of them.
1- Find out about the syndrome: look for information, why it occurs, who it mainly affects, what we can do to avoid it and go to a professional if necessary. It is important that you know that the syndrome is a transitional stage that most parents will go through and that it is normal to feel this way. It also has a limited duration, experts indicate that it usually lasts 1 year or a year and a half, depending on how quickly the marriage is readjusted. Pamper yourself and give yourself time, keep in mind that you are going to be for a while without wanting to do anything. However, if you perceive that these thoughts are too exaggerated and that they block other activities of your daily life, go to a professional.
2- Consistency for the march . If you know beforehand that your children are going to leave, gradually get used to the idea and make sure they know how to fend for themselves before leaving (wash, cook, appreciate the value of money, stay within a certain budget … .). This will give them confidence and you will stay more relaxed. You will help them more by supporting and encouraging them than by caring for them.
3- Maintain contact but without overwhelming . Especially at the beginning it is important to speak frequently on the mobile or even by email. Call them once or twice a week at most, unless they ask you to call them more or they call you. If you call every two or three days you will surely end up overwhelming them. Put yourself in their place, everyone would end up getting tired. Keep in mind that they probably do not call you or at least not as often as you would like.
4- Look for new hobbies . If you are still working, do not focus 100% on work to forget that your children are no longer there, you will only get that when you get home you will notice more emptiness. Instead, look for refreshing activities that add well-being to your free time. Go back to the things you liked to do before , when you had more time. If you are retired, the latter is an obligation. Sign up for painting, ceramics, cooking classes, a short course, start a language … Pick up old friends with whom you can have a coffee at least once a week. If you have space and you like it, you can buy a pet that will cheer up the house a bit. Make a list of all those things that you always wanted to do but that for one reason or another you never could.. Now you have more time for yourself!
If you have a partner, do activities together. You can sign up for dance classes and thus strengthen your relationship. Another alternative is travel. You no longer have to be aware of your children and you can relax and spend more time away from home.
5- Help others. In the case of being retired, a good idea is to volunteer for an association or get involved in charity work. It is a nice way to occupy your free time while helping others. It also gives you a chance to test what things you might like.
6- Fall in love again . There are couples who discover after their children have left home that they were really only held together by them. In that case, you have to talk about the path the marriage is taking and what you can do about it. You may have to heal that relationship that you have neglected over time. In other cases it simply happens that after so long of being only “parents” one has to remember how to also be “lovers”.
Surely it will have been a long time since you started to be together and both of you have changed. Those changes are more evident now that you are spending more time together. However, you can take it as an opportunity to get to know each other again , as a second relationship. Spend more time together, take a vacation, try to relive special moments, support each other … It will take time to strengthen the relationship again, so give yourself time and do not despair. It can also be helpful to go to couples therapy.
7- Also focus on the positive aspects . First, congratulate yourself for raising independent and self-reliant children (not everyone can say the same). On the other hand, you will save more money because you will not have to buy so much food, nor will you spend so much electricity or gas … You can invest that money in indulging yourself. You also won’t spend as much time doing housework.
8- What not to do . Don’t overwhelm them with questions about when they are coming to visit, give them time. Find an alternate plan in case you can’t come home for the holidays (like Christmas). Do not show excessive concern or make them see that you are depressed or that you feel bad. That will only make them feel guilty.
Finally, as we have already said, the empty nest syndrome is limited in time and is considered a normal event in the life of every person. But there are cases that last too long and can be cause for concern. In that case, go to a professional.