The Empty Nest Syndrome The Empty Nest Syndrome

Psychologists define the empty nest syndrome as an empty feeling of loneliness when the children have left home. It is especially present for women. When the nest begins to empty, many women are beginning to enter menopause, making this especially hard on them. Even worse, when the child marries, the feeling of "being replaced" in your child's life by the new spouse is prevalent. In relationships between parents and children which are exceptionally strong makes the syndrome much worse. When the children were at home, there was a hands-on approach to their lives. Now, when married and removed often by long distance, parents suffer a great deal. For seniors who have grandchildren, the feeling can be much stronger. Here, we discuss the empty nest syndrome and what can be done about it.

What Causes Empty Nest Syndrome?

Empty Nest Syndrome occurs when children leave home for college or to get married. Parents who spent years giving all their time to the children find themselves with little to do. They have no clue of what to do with themselves. Feelings of sadness are high at this point. Parents find themselves dwelling on their children, and even spending time in the child's bedroom reminiscing. At this time, it is important that you monitor your feelings -- both their strength and duration. Yes, it is normal to miss your children. Making yourself sick over it, however, is not normal and needs attention.

The good news today is that parents are not experiencing the empty nest syndrome as badly as they did in bygone years. Several decades ago, the mother was in the home, rearing the children and managing the household while the father worked. There was a very strong structure to the family, with relatives usually a big part of it. Today, a lot of children are moving back home to the relatively safe environment but wishing to be treated as adults. Many parents don't mind this -- it gets the kids back home. A lot of these children, normally between the ages of 25 to 34, have had a bad experience that necessitates moving back in with mom and dad. They may have gone through a divorce, economic hardship, or even drug and alcohol-related problems.

Things To Do to Help

When the feelings of empty nest syndrome take over your life, you are unable to function in the necessary capacity. This is unfair - you have spent your own life raising kids and shouldn't suffer from these feelings. Alleviate these problems in these ways:

* Buy phone cards and send them to the kids. No excuses now!
If they are a long way from home, stay in contact via the
Internet. Use VOIP or instant messaging. The services are
free in most cases, and a daily schedule with
the kiddies makes life easier.

* Send them care packages. Send needed items that the
daughter or son wouldn't normally buy for themselves. This
shows you care and gives them a good feeling about
your love for them. Never overdo it, and never make them
feel obligated or guilty in any way.

* If you are a senior with a lot of unlimited time due to
retirement, try to schedule time to spend with your children.
You could visit them for a week or two each year, and make
yourself useful in the process. Many young people haven't
a clue of how to care for a home. Skilled parents
can teach them to cook, how to repair a leaking faucet or
repair plumbing. Mothers can teach daughters skills that
they just didn't have time to do when the kids were at

Extreme Cases and Their Cures

The empty nest syndrome should be a passing thing. A retired couple needs to learn to enjoy the company of one another, and take time for themselves. Now is the time to work on further developing your relationship with your spouse. You may find that you have a very good friend, and didn't even know it. If this is not happening, then you should consider seeking professional help. Discuss the feelings with your primary care physician, and seek help when things get overwhelming. There are support groups for people who suffer from this malady. Often when things are so bad you cannot deal with them, a simple medication is in order. Getting the children raised and out on their own is often the best thing that can happen to a couple that have worked hard their entire adult life to raise and support their children.

Experiencing empty nest syndrome? Talk with other parents on our forum

Alden Smith is an award winning author and regular contributor to He writes on a variety of subjects, and excels in research.

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