When the last chick flies the coop
When the last child moves out or leaves for school, it can be a tremendous adjustment for parents who are used to managing their children’s schedules and being very involved in their day-to-day lives. Even though they know it’s coming, an emptier-than-normal house can seem very large and quiet indeed, and the feelings of loss can be very real.
Known as Empty Nest Syndrome, according to Complete Wellbeing the symptoms of this psychological condition facing empty nesters include:
- Depression characterized by excessive crying, feeling withdrawn from normal routines, duties and friends; decreased energy; insomnia and a persistent sad mood (check in with your doctor if these symptoms last longer than a week).
- Feelings of uselessness, particularly in mothers who used to be busy doing many things for their children.
- Feelings of emptiness within the marriage now that kids are no longer a priority, as they have been for a very long time.
Obviously not all empty nesters require professional help to cope with the adjustment period after their children leave home, but for some counseling is a good and healthy way to take constructive steps towards settling into this “new” life and finding peace and happiness in it. Speak to your doctor if you are concerned that you aren’t handling the transition well or feel that you need additional help.
Perhaps the best way to cope is to allow yourself a little time to mourn the loss and feel all the things you’re feeling – it’s perfectly normal to be sad and a little shaken by this new stage of your life – but try to focus on the positives as much as possible. For example:
- You are now able to redirect your time and focus your energy on what makes you happy and fulfilled. You might consider doing more volunteer work with other Foresters members, taking a course, starting a new hobby or getting back into one you didn’t have time for when your children were younger.
- You have time to dedicate to developing your old friendships and making new ones. You might want to start a weekly supper club where you meet for a potluck meal, join a book club, or make regular double dates with other couples you haven’t had time to socialize with in awhile.
- You can now have a new relationship with your children. As adults, they will be experiencing exciting new things in their lives and you can tag along vicariously as they head off on their adventures. But they’ll also be experiencing many of the same things you did as young adults, so they’ll still need your advice and been-there-done that wisdom. Schedule regular visits or phone calls to keep in touch.
- You and your spouse can reconnect in a way that hasn’t been possible in a long time. It’s all about the two of you again, just like it was when you first met and got married. Rekindle the romance and enjoy falling in love all over again. It’s not uncommon to discover that there are issues within a marriage that were hidden during the busy childrearing years, so if you and your spouse are struggling to find your way, consider talking to a couples therapist or marriage counselor. Check out Two Of Us for more advice on reconnecting with your spouse.
Like all changes, becoming empty nesters can take some time to get used to, but staying positive and focusing on the good things that this next chapter in your lives can bring is a healthy way to deal with the transition.
For more information on how to adapt and thrive as an empty nester, visit WikiHow.
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