The Empty Nesters- A difficult goodbye

Empty Nest syndrome refers to a psychological and not clinical condition. It is experienced by parents, when their children move out of their home, either for further studies or after marriage. It leaves the parents with a feeling of loneliness and grief. Since the situation of children leaving their parents at a certain stage of life is considered normal and natural, this syndrome generally goes undetected.

As stated above it is absolutely natural for parents to feel a sense of sadness at the departure of their child. However, most of them get adjusted to this fact and divert their attention to other activities. While for some it takes a longer time to sink in, that they don’t have their little ones to look after and around them all the time. Even though the parents want a better future for their child, it definitely is really hard and painful for them to let go. They miss being a part of their children’s everyday routine. At the same time, they are also worried if they have trained their child enough to face the big bad world. They constantly have the thought that would he or she be able to adjust to a completely new surrounding.

According to a research, at this stage, the kind of relationship the parents and child share is very significant. A parent is psychologically satisfied when they have had a stable and good relation with their children. Since they have been involved with them from the start, they know their strengths and weakness and therefore has the surety of a brighter future. On the other side, a rocky and conflict-filled relationship will be difficult for both. This is a crucial time when the child needs support to start a new chapter in their lives and for the parents in their times of old age.

It is true that empty nest syndrome affects both parents. However, it could be said that the impact is felt harder on the mother. Especially for mothers who stay at home all day long. Since their lives revolved around their child. This syndrome affects working women as well. Once the child leaves home, they think that their most important duty is over. According to a psychologist, it may take18 months to two years for a woman to adjust to this transition and get converted to a working women. The most commonly found symptoms of empty nest syndrome are depression, identity crisis, alcoholism. There is a constant feeling of sadness and loneliness. Also, a tremendous amount of anxiety and stress. They keep on thinking if they have prepared their child enough to live independently.

Empty nest syndrome can not be prevented or avoided. However, there are several ways with which the psychological condition can be coped up with. First is to always stay positive and remember that they have gone to make a career for themselves. Devote your time to activities you could not earlier because of them. This is your time to indulge yourself and make the best of it. You could take up a job, volunteer work or start socializing with more people. Keep yourself busy most of the time in order to avoid the feeling of anxiety. Secondly, remember that technology has made distance only a click away. There are always applications such as FaceTime or Skype which act as a huge savior at these time. You can regularly keep in touch with them through calls, texts and emails. Even renowned psychologist and life coach, Christine Webber, recommends parents to talk to their child on a regular basis.

Thirdly, talk about your feelings and don’t just keep it to yourself. You could confide in your close friends, family or loved one. Even if this does not help, do not be ashamed to seek professional help. They would be the best guiding source since they have helped many other people going through the same situation. The consultation can be to a medical doctor, counselor or a psychologist. Lastly, you could prepare in advance for their departure. So that both the parents and the child are mentally prepared for the life which is in front of them. It could start by giving them basic training of washing clothes and cooking food.

The best solution to this syndrome is the sheer knowledge of its existence and working towards a positive yet productive life. The parents should have trust in their child, as well as their parenthood. At the same time, the child should always know that whatever happens their parents will always be there to support them and guide them in the correct direction. If the departure of your child is certain, do not sit and sulk about it but cherish and enjoy the remaining moments. Plan family vacations and long drives and spend as much time you can together.

Karen.L. Fingerman is a professor of child development and family studies at Purdue University. She says that parents who have given their offspring independence early on feel a sense of pride and joy when their children begin the campus life or any place away from home. Fingerman, author of Mothers and Their Adult Children: Mixed Emotions, Enduring Bonds, says, “What I’ve seen in my research, what happens is actually the opposite of empty-nest syndrome.” Women feel closer to their grown children who have left home, they have better relationships when they don’t have to deal with the hassles of daily life living together. And women find time to renew their other relationships (including with their spouse) and personal activities.

Abha Duggal, the mother of National Law University Delhi (NLUD) student Anandita Duggal said, “I was very happy on knowing that my daughter had cracked the NLUD paper. However, the thought of her leaving the house and shifting to the hostel often used to make me sad. After four years I can proudly say that it was the best decision to let her go. She has become an independent, young woman now”.

Parents are a really important part of any child’s life. However, they should accept the fact that a day will come when they have to let go of their little one, so that they can make a life of their own. The child will fall, make mistakes and learn from them. Have trust in your child and treat their departure as a part of life. Today is your turn to let go and in the future it will be your children in the same situation.  As James Baldwin says, “children have never been very good at listening to their elders but they have never failed to imitate them”. Let them follow their dreams and don’t cut their wings before they start flying. Instead, assist them in their flight.