An empty nest refers to a household in which one or more parents live after the children have left home. Being an empty nester comes in various stages. The main empty nesting comes when children move out of home. However, there are different forms of empty nesting in between. If you’re a stay-at-home mom, the first empty nest is when children first go to school then later when they go to boarding school in high school for those who do. This transition is often accompanied by a condition colloquially known as empty nest syndrome. Here are some ways to prepare for and thrive as an empty nester.
Empty nest syndrome
Empty nest syndrome refers to the feelings of sadness, anxiety, and loss of purpose that some parents and caregivers feel when their grown children move out of the family home. It is not a medical or psychiatric condition but can lead to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety or engaging in behaviour that can have a negative impact such as financial risk-taking or substance abuse disorder.
Characteristics of empty nesters
Some symptoms experienced by empty nesters include:
- Fear and worry
- Languishing (diminished energy and motivation)
How to prepare for an empty nest
You’ll likely be an empty nester longer than you’ll spend time directly raising kids. You need to plan for that and taking up badminton will not be enough to keep you occupied. For example, some women go to school or start a business.
Mind your marriage
Moving from a family with kids down to just the two of you places unexpected stress on the relationship that you need to prepare for. Approximately 25% of marriages in the US end in divorce when children get to college age. Children are often more of a buffer than parents realize so things are sure to change when you no longer have conversations about school fees to distract you. Find ways to rekindle your romance with your partner.
Tips to thrive as an empty nester
Allow yourself to cry
Sadness and even crying are normal reactions to your children leaving the home. Allow yourself to feel the sadness. Grieve the changes.
Get a pet
A pet is no replacement for a child but having a pet to care for can go a long way in alleviating the symptoms of empty nest syndrome.
Pursue your interests
Parenting is time-consuming, especially for women which often means neglecting your interests and hobbies while putting everyone’s needs before yours. This is the time to embrace your interests and hobbies. Take a cooking class, learn to paint, and go back to school. The options are endless.
Parenting is still needed
One of the biggest struggles of empty nest syndrome is feeling like you’re no longer needed by your kids. Stay in touch. Your kids will never not need you as their parent. The nature of the relationship may change but they still need you.
Reconnect with friends
Parenting can leave you little time to spend in social settings with friends and family. This is the time to reconnect with them. Take that trip, go for brunch, and say yes to those invites you’ve been saying no to.
Reach out for help
Don’t try to do it all alone, reach out for help from friends and family. If it feels like it’s too much, you can always reach out to a mental health professional.
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