First and foremost, let me say, I am not a medical doctor and have no medical background. If your kids have flown from the nest, and you find yourself severely depressed, please seek medical advice. Depression and anxiety are not something to be ashamed of. A sound medical doctor can help you over the hurdle if you have found nothing else is helping.
What is empty nest syndrome and why do some parents experience it?
Now, with that disclaimer out of the way, let me talk to you frank and honest about “Empty Nest Syndrome.” It’s the time of year when a new flock of mothers (and dads) will be experiencing their fledglings leaving the nest to head to college or out on their own. Sometimes, it’s not a happy and joyful occasion. Well, it IS, because as parents we want the best for our kids! But, sometimes mom’s go through a little down time and it’s been called “Empty Nest Syndrome.”
You may experience some sadness, grief, anxiety and even depression. Or perhaps they are getting married and leaving home. Usually it’s the mothers that experience the greatest loss, although men are not immune to Empty Nest Syndrome.
Mind you, there is no ‘real’ clinical definition. But it’s a real time when parents experience some sadness and loss when the last (or only) child leaves home.
There’s a host of reasons. You may find it hard to let go of your kids. They don’t ‘need’ you any more. The house will seem empty without them there. It’s a time of change for all.
What’s the impact of empty nest syndrome?
Past research has shown that some parents trying to deal with empty nest syndrome experience a profound sense change and loss. This may make them prone to feelings of depression, anxiety, marital conflicts and turning to alcohol or drugs for consolation.
But, some newer research has shown that the empty nest may now reduce some conflicts at work and home and can be of benefit to the parents. Yea! There is HOPE mom! I’m going to share with you some of the hope!
How can I cope with empty nest syndrome?
If you are experiencing the loss due to the last child leaving the nest, here are some actions you can take:
Define Normal: Every woman faces the empty nest differently. Some moms cry. Some are truly excited for their kids to move towards their next great adventure. Don’t compare yourself to another mom and how she is handling it. Just give yourself a pat on the back for successfully raising your child to “make it” in the world. Believe me, if they can cook mac cheese, ramen noodles, and open a jar of peanut butter, they will make it!
Embrace the Timing: Don’t compare your children and what they are doing ‘at this age’ to what you did and how you were at that age. You may have some conflic of expecations or experiences. Embrace your child for who they uniquely are. Instead, concentrate on what you can do to help your child to succeed when he/she leaves home.
Also, remember, your kids aren’t going away from you. They are moving towards their adult life.
“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” Psalm 139:14 NIV
Keep In Touch: This is a glorious age we live in and you can continue to keep in touch with your child even when you are on different sides of the continent. Between Facebook, Skype, Facetime, Google Hangouts, Email, Texting and the Cell Phone, there are ample opportunities to connect with your children. Keep in contact with ‘regular’ visits, but also, give them some room. Maybe daily visits the first week away. After that, let them have some wings. =) Don’t demand daily calls and that they come home every weekend. When you do that, you aren’t facing your own issues. Realize that they do need space, and you do TOO.
Find Support: If you are having a really difficult time, lean on loved ones, friends, and church family or social groups. Share your feelings. Your friends will support you. If you are feeling depressed though, please don’t try to struggle alone. Consult your doctor or a mental health provider. Depression is not to be taken lightly, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
Keep a Positive Outlook: You are about to embark on your own great adventure. You will have some extra time to explore what I like to call “your 2nd childhood”. You can take up some old hobbies, learn new hobbies, get closer to your husband and strengthen your marriage. The list of possibilities is endless! Not sure about what you ‘think’ you want to do? Maybe you need to reconnect with your core values and let them guide you. You can read about it in my post about Mapping Your Life With Your Core Values.
Evolve: When I started out as a young mother, I never thought ahead to ‘the future’. I never really thought about ‘when he grows up’ until he got to 10-12 years. My focus then started to be more of a “preparer”. I wanted to prepare him for manhood. He would move to a new stage of life. It only made sense that if he moved to a new stage, I would be to. But I just don’t think I clearly had that in my brain. However, I soon saw after he left home I was still ‘mom’. I just wasn’t mom FULL TIME. I was moving into a new phase as well. I was a source of ideas – a sounding board – a ‘safe haven’. I had a new role, and I wanted to embrace that role as well.
Just like the butterfly in the picture. She started out as a little caterpillar. We know she successfully fulfilled that role because she lived and changed into the beautiful butterfly. You will too, Mom. You will too.
Kim’s Top 5 Quick Tips to Survive Empty Nest Syndrome
Life’s not over. It’s just beginning.
Cry a little. Now stop.
Get up and do something
Don’t call your kids every day
Kim Steadman is the Content Curator and COOP (Chief Online Operating Person) for The Re-Feathered Nest, a place of encouragement for moms entering the Empty Nest Zone who are ready to RePurpose and ReDesign themselves according to God’s purpose for their lives now that the kids have flown the coop. She is the author of the soon to be released book ““My Little Book of Empty Nest Quotes & Wisdom.’ Kim can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TheRefeatheredNest and on Google+ at +Kim