A common struggle many parents face is the syndrome called empty nest. Their whole life they have the goal of setting their children free to pursue their dreams, but once it actually happens, they can become depressed or sad. This is a typical problem especially among stay at home parents who have devoted much of their life to raising their children. When their children are gone, and they are no longer needed as much, it is hard to find their identity.
Let’s take a look at some suggestions for coping with an empty nest:
Recognize that all of your efforts were done with the goal in mind that they would some day become independent, responsible adults. When children are young, we teach them to tie their own shoes, to get themselves dressed in the morning, how to pour their own drinks, do laundry, drive, etc. We take our time and efforts to do this in hopes that they will be independent, productive young adults. Recognize your feelings are natural, you have devoted your life to your children and now they are gone, but that it is a good thing!
Next, identify just what it is you are feeling. This is a problem more common to mothers than to fathers, moms often feel useless or unneeded once their children are gone. If this is what you are feeling then you can help yourself cope by finding things to fill your time. You used to fill your time with the needs of the children. Since you have spent several years filling your time with chauffeuring, attending school functions, hosting slumber parties, and so on, you may find extra time on your hands. Fill it. If you stay busy you will not feel those feelings as much. Volunteer, serve others, find a hobby you enjoy, read, travel, or anything that appeals to you.
Another problem that makes the effects of empty nest syndrome so bad is that many couples no longer know what to talk about. They have spent years talking about their children, but now that their children are not the center of their focus, what do you talk about? It is simple, start reading the paper, and talk about world events, get a hobby and talk about that, join a book club together and discuss literature. There are plenty of things to discuss, you just have to start somewhere.
So, cope by turning your focus from your children to one another. Married couples can take this time to renew the intimacy they once shared, and strengthen their relationship.
The following are some quick and easy things to do to help cope with the feelings of empty nest syndrome:
•Establish date nights with your spouse or a game night with your friends. Having a set night for fun gives you something to think about, look forward to, and something to fill your time.
•Host an exchange student. This is a great idea if you are really struggling because it helps fill the void, and it can be very gratifying to know you are helping a young person into a new experience.
•Become involved in your church youth group. These types of groups are always in need of people to help.
•Volunteer in your community. There are many opportunities to serve and to help yourself feel needed.
•Join a club or a group. Such groups often get together for outings, share commonalities, and do hobbies together.
•Travel or renew hobbies.