If you are a parent you have undoubtedly joked about how nice it will be when the kids are finally grown up and out of the house. Raising kids is hard, and the point when they move out and are on their own is often looked at as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. However, for some people, that pot is filled with identity crisis, feelings of uselessness, and depression, rather than gold. These feelings are often referred to as empty nest syndrome. The following are some coping tactics for when your kids leave home:
One of the first tactics for coping with the symptoms of an empty nest is to accept the grief so you can work through it. You have to recognize that you have experienced a loss and that it’s okay to grieve that loss. You have invested a lot of time into the relationship with your children, bathing them, feeding them, washing their clothes, driving them around, attending their events and more, so it is totally normal to suffer some when they leave.
The next tactic for coping with empty nest syndrome is seeking help. If you find yourself being really depressed or sad, you need to talk to a spouse, friend, religious leader, therapist, etc. It is a real issue, but it can be taken care of.
Another tactic is to identify your feelings and find solutions to them. For example, if you are feeling lonely because you are used to being surrounded by your children, you can join a club, or get involved in a group that meets frequently. If you are feeling unneeded or useless you can start volunteering in your community. No matter what you are feeling, there are ways to combat it, but you have to sort out your feelings first and identify them.
The next tactic for coping when kids leave home is to prepare for it before they actually leave. You can do this by getting involved in their senior year of high school, and enjoy the process of them starting to leave. Extend some freedoms, and start to let them make the choices that they will be making when they are gone. This will lessen the worry, and help you feel a part of the process.
Also, prepare for them leaving by getting yourself involved with activities or start to form interests in addition to those related to the children, so that when they leave your identity does not leave with them. Have a life! You won’t regret it. Just remember the things you do should not be related to child-rearing. You need to have something to identify with that does not leave when your child does.
Another tactic for coping with your kids leaving home is to focus on the positive aspects of an empty nest. This is what you have been working toward. This is why you taught them to drive themselves, do their own laundry, etc. Looking at the positives, such as more free time, less drama, and a chance to rekindle the intimacy in your own marriage can help parents deal with their sadness. Be happy that now you have time to devote to activities you did not before. There is so much you can do: go back to school, volunteer, take up a hobby, learn something new.
These are just a few coping tactics, but really, you should just be proud that if they are ready to leave home as a responsible young adult, then you did a great job!