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Bridge to Health Blog
Bridge to Health Blog

Empty nest syndrome: are you suffering?

Written by Deborah Kerr   Posted in:Counselling / Psychotherapy   October 5, 2016

Empty nest syndrome: are you suffering?
Autumn is the season when children leave home and transition into life of study at university. When children fly the coop parenthood becomes redundant as children need their parents less.  The Empty-nest Syndrome is a phenomenon that describes parents experiencing feelings of loss and sadness when the last child leaves home. 

You may feel relieved the carpet in their bedroom finally sees daylight and you may enjoy more space in the home, but it’s natural to miss their presence around the house and feel at a loss, added by worrying about your child’s safety and whether they’ll be able to manage alone. The experience of letting go is painful but also natural so please don’t judge yourself.

When children leave home it’s a time for great change affecting more women than men who may also be dealing with other major changes such as menopause* and/or managing elderly parents. Experiencing a profound sense of loss (with or without prevalent stressors) can trigger deep seated depression making you vulnerable to alcoholism, identity crises and marital problems. If you find your sadness does not subside and is affecting your relationship or life, or if you’re devastated (crying persistently or excessively) and unable to go to work or mix with friends, you should seek professional help. Go and visit your GP or seek professional counselling.

Social media and modern day technology has made keeping in touch ever so easy but try not to feel hurt when your child rejects you from Facebook. Research shows that 72% of young people refuse to include parents in their social media circle and that’s probably appropriate as you are not their friend - you are their parent. Texting, email and Skype/Facetime seem to be a popular method to stay in touch but be guided by their need for you rather than your need for them. This is a time for young people to find their feet and experience independence. They have enough to deal with managing an array of new demands and shouldn’t become wracked with guilt concerning themselves with how you feel. Of course it’s ok to tell your child you miss them, but confide in your partner, good friends, your GP or counsellor to work through your deeper feelings.

You may not be the only one who is struggling. Of course, your child may also struggle and become distressed and homesick but resist the temptation to fix it for them! Suggesting they give up and return home may not be in their best interest. Most young people manage their upset and lonely feelings in the first few weeks once they’ve made new friends, attended events and joined groups. Give them time to settle and support them gently and positively.  

Parenthood might be redundant but remember you are not - and neither is your life! This is the time to embrace your new-found freedom, invest in yourself and build up your confidence. Think about all the things you’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t. Make a plan and start to live a new life that’s full of new and exciting experiences, especially if you are a lone parent; this could be a good time to extend your circle of friends. If you are co-parents the empty-nest syndrome can expose long ignored difficulties and you may need to rebuild the relationship. But this can only succeed if both agree. If you struggle communicating with your partner it may be easier to work through any problems with a professional couple’s counsellor. 

It’s a challenging time when children leave, as family life will never be the same again. But change doesn’t have to be negative. It’s fair to allow yourself some time to grieve so don’t expect too much of yourself. Rediscovering each other can be an exciting and sexier time and most parents move on to enjoy their life after children and hugely enjoy engaging in and exploring life in new ways.

If you are struggling to cope with this latest stage as a parent, why not give Deborah a call on 07870 127650 and find out how she could help. Or visit her website to find out more about her and her approach: www.deborahkerrcounselling.co.uk

*If you are struggling with symptoms of menopause you may benefit from discussing your nutrition one of our Nutritionists and receiving some acupuncture from one of our Acupuncturists here at Bridge to Health.


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