Are you ( or someone you know) experiencing severe empty nest syndrome?
Learning how to overcome empty nest syndrome can be viewed as learning how to overcome a type of psychological disruption. It starts with knowing the signs and symptoms that commonly occur in those suffering from this affliction.
And like any other disease or disorder, there are challenges associated with severe empty nest syndrome.
Empty Nest Syndrome might not be a recognized clinical disorder, but the effects are real!
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Empty Nest Marriage
Your marriage may become more challenging.
While children can be a real challenge for a marriage, they can also keep a shaky marriage together.
A less than spectacular marriage can look relatively healthy while the children are still present, but that stability quickly crumbles when the last child has left the home.
- Children provide a distraction. You and your husband have been able to put your attention on your children instead of on each other. High school kids have a lot going on: class, friends, dates, dances, parties, sports, band, college visits and applications, and other after school activities.
- Children provide a buffer. Most parents are reluctant to argue and fight in front of their children. Your kids can help to keep the peace, even if it’s unknowingly.
- Children provide a shared purpose. You and your husband place a high priority on the children. It’s a shared goal and ideal. When the youngest leaves the house, that shared purpose has largely evaporated.
- There is a change in the dynamic of the home, even among the best of marriages. Regardless of the quality of your marriage, expect to face some challenges in recalibrating your relationship.
Dealing with Empty Nest & Unexpected Emotions
- Your friends may not understand. Many parents dream of the day the children finally leave the house, and their bedroom can be turned into a reading room or giant closet. Many parents will fail to understand your pain. You might not receive the sympathy you were hoping for.
- Depression is a significant health threat. Depression is not a joking matter regardless of the cause, but empty nest depression is a serious health threat for many empty nesters.
- Loss of sense of purpose. Children provide a sense of purpose in the life of a mother. Mothers have responsibilities and duties to perform in order to ensure their children are receiving everything they need. All of this responsibility and purpose evaporates practically overnight when the kids leave home.
- Loss of identity as a parent. We all identify ourselves with certain groups, whether they be a gender, profession, religion, body type, ethnicity, and so on. The identity of being a mother is the most defining identity for many women. The pain and confusion associated with losing that identity is considerable. This is the time to give yourself some extra love and encouragement.
How to Cope with Empty Nest Anxiety, Worry & Guilt
- Anxiety over your child’s welfare. Parents always worry about their kids, but at least you have a better chance of identifying challenges and helping when your child is still living at home. It’s natural to worry and wonder how your child is doing. It can be extremely frustrating and scary to be out of the loop.
- Guilt. When your child is still at home, there’s still time to make amends. There’s still time to finally take that family trip to Disneyland. You can still create new experiences and pleasant memories of their childhood for your children.
Once a child leaves the home, their childhood becomes final. There’s nothing that can be done to change the experience that they had living in your home. Feelings of guilt are common for mothers when the kids leave.
3. Self-Medication. What do people do when they feel bad? They find a way to make themselves feel better. Many of the options people turn to can be unhealthy:
- Drugs or alcohol
- Spending too much time watching TV or surfing the internet
- Making poor relationship choices
4. The urge to change your life drastically. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing! You might want to change careers, move to a new location, downsize your home, give yourself a totally new look, or take up new hobbies. There’s nothing wrong with any of this provided you’re making healthy and intelligent choices.
Plan Ahead for the symptoms of empty nest syndrome
Figuring out how to overcome severe empty nest syndrome can be challenging. Empty Nest Syndrome has real symptoms to deal with and challenges to face. See if you can identify these symptoms in yourself and prepare for the challenges that may lie ahead.
Planning ahead can save you grief and keep you on track to building a new life that satisfies you.
Waving your kids off to college is undoubtedly a bittersweet moment. You’re proud that your children are on their way to adulthood. Nevertheless, you’re saddened by the fact that they’ll soon be off in a dorm room with strangers rather than home in their beds.
Even though the moment isn’t here yet and you’re trying to soak up every second available with your children, it’s important to plan for what is to come rather than simply ignoring it. Planning and preparing are key in learning how to overcome empty nest syndrome.
Your kids will be in college soon. Therefore, now is the time to develop a plan to help you cope with the sadness of the separation.
Try these 3 techniques below to help you prepare yourself for an empty nest.
Look forward to enjoying your newfound freedom
While your kids are enjoying their freedom away at college, you too can rejoice in your newfound freedom away from the kids and their limiting schedules.
You’ll be able to host dinner parties on weeknights, lounge around with your spouse without sharing the TV, take vacations during the school year, join clubs or become more active in your religious community.
This is the time to rediscover your interests.
For so long, you’ve put your wants on the backburner. But now, you can fully explore your interests and find a hobby that helps you feel needed, appreciated, and offers gratification.
Prevent Empty Nest Divorce by Reconnecting with your Spouse
After raising the children for so many years, living alone with your spouse is something that may feel new to you again. Now is the moment to feel like newlyweds! Reconnect with one another on a deeper level than you have in the last twenty years or so.
Every night is date night!
Make something special for dinner a few times each week and then go out on the town on the weekends.
Take the time to enjoy this milestone in your relationship.
You’ve raised wonderful children together; you’ve succeeded as parents and have held a successful marriage. You’re living your life’s dream – celebrate your success!
Plan a home improvement project
Properly planning a home improvement project takes time. Therefore, use the few months ahead while the kids are still at home to redo their bedroom once they’re off in college.
- Turning their bedroom into a gym may be too much of a change. So, take baby steps. Turn their bedroom into a guest bedroom. By doing so, you can comfortably accommodate both your adult children and guests.
- Add a home office area to the bedroom so your kids can have a place to study when they come home on breaks. In addition, a simple armchair for reading, fresh paint, new linens and bedroom décor and accessories will make for a hotel-like retreat that guests can appreciate.
- Generally, most teens won’t feel as if they’re being slighted when their childhood bedroom is given a makeover. If anything, they’ll feel better knowing that their parents are just as excited about the change.
How to Overcome Severe Empty Nest Syndrome – Tips for Coping
In addition to all of the tips outlined above, plan ways to connect with your children while they’re in college. Plan to send care packages, have weekly video chats, monthly visits, and holidays together.
However, refrain from saying: “Call us every night” as this will likely cause your child to feel guilty when unable to call.
It’s vital to remember that this is uncharted territory for everyone involved; it’s certainly a mixed bag of emotions. All you can do is to try your best to look at the bright side and all of the benefits involved for your youngster. You aren’t losing a child; you’re gaining a college graduate!
Empty Nester… No Friends? Try these socializing activities!
Mothers often have a very strong bond with their children. Once the last child leaves home, it’s necessary to create other social bonds or to strengthen existing bonds.
If your socializing activities were centered around your children, this can be a challenging part of your life to rebuild. However, there are plenty of people in the world looking for someone to talk to and to spend time with.
Create new bonds, strengthen old, social relationships and connect with others. Make a list of friends you’ve lost touch with.
Everyone loses touch with friends over the years. Some of these friends might even live in your town. It’s not easy to reach out to people you haven’t spoken to in ages, but this might be the right time to rekindle those old friendships.
Make a list of friends and family you don’t see as much as you’d like.
There’s also that group of people that you haven’t completely lost touch with, but they’re no longer in your life significantly. Turn your empty nest situation into an opportunity to have these people in your life in a more meaningful way.
Make Dinner plans.
There’s a book titled, “Never Eat Alone”. This book is about success in the business world, but the idea rings true for everyone. Meals are a great time to socialize. Ensure that you’re eating meals with others at least a couple of times a week.
You could have standing Thursday night dinner plans with your best friend. Or regular lunch plans with your significant other
Consider getting groups of friends together and take turns hosting dinner on a regular basis.
Allow Yourself the Freedom to Pursue new activities.
Let’s touch on the topic of hobbies. There are plenty of activities available that can help to boost your social life. Here’s a quick list:
- Try your hand at oil painting
- Plant a garden
- Learn to play the guitar
- Start walking for mental health alone or with a group of friends
- Start Journaling
Reconnect with friends and family members. Find a few activities you like to do that require other people. Keep going until you have the social life you desire.