If your last child is all grown up and about to leave home — or he or she has already moved out — you might be experiencing some mixed emotions. Empty nest syndrome is a phenomenon in which parents experience feelings of sadness and loss when the last child leaves home. Although you might actively encourage your children to become independent, the experience of letting go can be painful. You might find it difficult to suddenly have no children at home who need your care. You might miss being a part of your children's daily lives, as well as the constant companionship.
Preparing yourself in advance of the day your children will leave home can help you ease through this transition. Some basic strategies for overcoming empty nest syndrome are:
- Focus on the positive – your children are growing into successful adults!
- Rediscover your love life – now you can take the time to focus on your relationship with your spouse or start dating again.
- Create a list of interests – Is there something you’ve always wanted to do, but didn’t have time? Dive back into activities that bring you joy.
- Discuss boundaries with your children – it’s normal to want to see your children often and for them to want to drop by to see you, but it’s good to set boundaries for when and how often you can call or meet up.
- Accept support – this is a transition period into a new stage of life, and it can be hard to cope and accept the change. Find someone you can talk to and who will support you as life changes.
It’s normal to feel a sense of loss as your children leave home, but if that sadness persists for longer than two weeks, it’s time to seek professional help. At the Cone Health Behavioral Health Hospital, our team of experts work to ensure each patient’s recovery from a wide range of emotional problems. Our staff is committed to providing each patient with confidential care that fits his or her specific lifestyle.
Barbara “B” Akins is a registered nurse and staff educator at Cone Health Behavioral Health Hospital. Barbara received a Bachelor of Science in nursing from North Carolina A & T University in 1975. She is also certified in the Congregational Nurse Program, through The Duke Endowment and the Moses Cone-Wesley Long Community Health Foundation.