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Empty Nest Syndrome: What It Means And How It Can Be Managed?

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more

As the name suggests, ‘empty nest’ syndrome refers to the feeling of emptiness that parents go through when their children leave home for work and other reasons. Children grow up and become responsible enough to live alone, they learn to venture into new things and need to step out to meet their personal and professional demands. Parents on the other hand feel abandoned, miss the time spent with their children and this, in turn, can cause them to feel depressed, lonely and alienated. It is not a psychiatric illness but just a term used to denote the condition of parents when the last child leaves home.    


As a parent, you want to provide your child with a good education, help them become independent and wish that they prosper in life. This often means your child might have to leave for a boarding school or go to college or work in a place far away from home and this can trigger mixed emotions and become really hard to deal with as parents.

At a young age, children are more dependent on their parents for every little thing, for their meals or studies and the sudden transformation usually affects both the parents.

Empty nest syndrome has three stages: grief, relief, and joy. In the first stage, parents tend to experience sadness, loss, loneliness, or even depression. In the second stage, parents move on to feeling relief and a sense of freedom as they develop a new rhythm of life.

Dr. M.G. Kartheeka, MBBS, MD

Are some parents more susceptible than others?

Some parents are more susceptible to empty nest syndrome than others. This may be because of having a single child or if your child leaves earlier than what you expected. Some parents may find living alone really difficult and have an emotional breakdown. Parents who have disturbance or complications in their marriages depend on their children and may feel more lonely when they leave. Parents who rely on their parental roles for self-identity and are full-time parents, suffer separation anxiety when their children leave more acutely. There are parents who like catering to their children’s needs because they think their children are dependent on them and when the children leave and capably look after themselves or parents suffering from a mental illness, anxiety disorder or any other chronic illness tend to have higher chances of experiencing empty nest syndrome.

What are the causes of empty nest syndrome?

The causes of empty nest syndrome may vary among parents. Some of them include:

  • Parents feel worried about their child’s safety and well-being. They keep thinking their children may not be able to manage everything on their own and have difficulty adjusting to a new environment.
  • Parents may find the condition uncomfortable for several years when they lose the sense of parental responsibility and control.
  • There is a certain silence at home and parents miss the enthusiasm of their children being around. Understanding and addressing your situation, talking about empty nest syndrome will help you overcome this phase of life.

Empty nest syndrome symptoms:

Researchers have found that parents and caregivers suffering from empty nest syndrome may experience the following symptoms:

  • A feeling of sadness and frustration
  • Social isolation
  • Constant anxiety
  • Depression
  • Loss of purpose
  • Sense of insecurity
  • Boredom
  • Endless worry and guilt

Empty nest syndrome symptoms can be noticed in both parents. The age group most affected with empty nest syndrome is between 40 – 50. However, based on gender a few things may differ. While women may be at risk of being depressed and experience social withdrawal, the father may turn alcoholic or indulge in substance abuse. 

Empty Nest Syndrome can even prompt suicidal thoughts in parents. If you seek timely help, you will be able to deal with this issue better.

Marital stress is not uncommon among parents transitioning into a new rhythm with their children out of the house and can often cause increased tension and bickering. It may be helpful to seek professional help to resolve the issues arising due to this situation as it may be temporary but might have a huge impact on the couple.

Dr. Ashish Bajaj – M.B.B.S, M.D.

Managing Empty Nest Syndrome

  1. You should not be ashamed of experiencing empty nest syndrome. Feel free to express your emotions to someone who cares. As a mother or a father, you may also talk to your children about it. It is okay to be protective of our children even when they start living on their own.
  2. Try to meet your friends and expand your social circle. It is necessary that both partners support each other in this process.  
  3. Stay busy and invest time in your hobbies. When you redirect your attention towards other things and stay engaged, you will have less time to be worried. You can indulge in performing physical activities, such as outdoor games, yoga, meditation or jogging.
  4. Keep in touch with your children. It is better than always being worried about how they are doing. Stay updated with their lives. You can leave them a text or have a particular time for calls and video calls too.  
  5. Learn to accept and move on. This is the opportunity to rekindle the love and romance between you and your partner. Spend time with each other and appreciate this time together.
  6. Go on a vacation or trip to feel relaxed. Staying away from home may be helpful as it feels empty without your children around. A change of environment, exploring a new place can be a great experience.
  7. Stay positive and make a journal. You can write down how you feel or what you are thankful for. This exercise will take your mind off worries.

Conclusion

If you think this situation will last forever, remind yourself that it won’t. Your friends and family will support you during this transitional period of your life. You don’t have to deal with this feeling of loss alone. You must speak to psychiatrists, psychologists and ensure that you get proper help to live in a healthy manner. There are therapies to manage your symptoms effectively and keeping your mind calm and stress-free is the best solution for empty nest syndrome.

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

Links and product recommendations in the information provided here are advertisements of third-party products available on the website. PharmEasy does not make any representation on the accuracy or suitability of such products/services. Advertisements do not influence the editorial decisions or content. The information in this blog is subject to change without notice. The authors and administrators reserve the right to modify, add, or remove content without notification. It is your responsibility to review this disclaimer regularly for any changes.

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