Coping with an empty nest

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Empty nest syndrome is real, but there are many ways to move past the mixed emotions synonymous with this phenomenon.

Mothers spend 18 years or more devoted to their children, and often their identities are defined as “Mom” above all else. As a result, it can be difficult to think ahead to life without kids in the home, especially when children are toddlers or school-aged. But children will someday grow up and move out, and the emotions that resonate when that day comes can be overwhelming.

Many parents feel a sense of sadness and loss when their last child leaves the family home. Referred to as “empty nest syndrome,” these feelings are not officially labeled as a clinical mental health issue, but they are very real for many people. While parents encourage their children to become independent and branch out in their own lives, not every parent can cope with an empty nest. Mothers with empty nest syndrome experience a deep void in their lives that oftentimes makes them feel a little lost.

Moms who are feeling the pangs of sadness due to an empty nest can employ some strategies to alleviate these feelings.

  • Keep friends close. Use this opportunity to spend more time with close friends and put yourself first. Schedule all of those activities you may have temporarily put on hold while caring for children through the years.
  • Make time for travel. New experiences can broaden anyone’s horizons. Travel as a couple or with a group of friends. Put the focus on fun and then share the experiences later on with your adult children.
  • Redefine yourself. The experts at Psychology Today suggest finding new roles and interests to explore, or spend more time exploring existing hobbies. For example, if you’ve thought about doing community theater, do so now that you have some free time. Or maybe you’ve always had a goal of going back to school? Now may be the time to make that happen.
  • Reconnect with your partner. Recall the years before you had children when it was only the two of you and devote time to making more memories as a couple. Plan date nights, go to sporting events, attend a summer concert, or pursue other shared interests.
  • Change things up at home. Turn children’s rooms into spaces you can use for your own interests. One can be a crafting room or a home office. Another may be a home theater. No longer labeling those rooms as the kids’ spaces can help the transition.