Empty Nest Syndrome: Learning to Let Go

Ajibike is a 17-year-old from Monroe, Louisiana. She enjoys watching Novak Djokovic play tennis, playing tennis and golf in imitation of the pros, devouring books, starting her own novels, preparing for her freshman year at Princeton, and dreaming about medical school.

It’s graduation time! And with graduation comes white gowns, diplomas, hugs, and the cold realization that your little boy or little girl isn’t so little anymore. Instead, you’re child is on the precipice of adulthood—scary. Thus begins the empty nest syndrome.

To an extent, every parent experiences the empty nest syndrome. Without warning or even a vast transition period, you are expected to go from full blast to zero—constantly thinking about your child (24/7) and providing for your child directly, to watching your child fly from the nest to experience college and the unknown, without your omniscient guidance. For eighteen years you’ve provided for your child, taken shopping trips, gone on family vacations. You can’t possible just disentangle yourself from your child. And you aren’t expected to.

Each parent’s empty nest or partial nest syndrome is a bit different, but it can be easy to alleviate the pain of the empty nest syndrome.

KEEP POSITIVE: Take your child’s advancement as a sign of a job well done. There’s a feeling of happiness and pride that accompanies the knowledge that your child is self-sufficient. Instead of feeling mopey, lonely, and empty, feel fulfilled!

PREPARE FOR IT: Don’t let it come as a surprise. You’ve been waiting for graduation for four years, and you should be mentally preparing for the moment you officially say goodbye. Dive into an interest to carry you afloat the moments when you really miss your kid.

DO ____: Do whatever it is that you always wanted to do, but never had the time to get involved with. Zoomba, go sky-diving. You have more time now than you ever had before. Use it! Travel, go on a cruise, live your life again.

KEEP IN CONTACT: Your child is not completely ready to be cut loose. Don’t go overboard, but a few texts or e-mails or even calls a week (week, not day) are a-okay. A letter and a care package once in a while is the perfect way to let your child know that you truly care. Get inventive—skype or whatever. But I don’t think Facebook stalking is the right way to go. This empty nest allows for your child to mature into an adult, and for you to watch your child mature into the adult you molded him or her to be.

So you have empty nest symdrome. So what! Take it as a new opportunity rather than a period of despair. Dial back the clock and go back to you. Take up your old interests and new ones as well. And don’t fret, your kids are sure to come running back home for advice on entering the job market. So use your time alone wisely.

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One Response to “Empty Nest Syndrome: Learning to Let Go”

  1. Kristen
    October 11, 2010 at 8:06 am #

    Maybe the problem is that we live in a goal-oriented society – many times we “live in the future” rather than staying in the present moment. And when the future comes it takes us off guard and fills us with regret for not spending enough time with our children while they still lived with us.

    Parents should begin getting ready for separation from the moment they start a college fund for their kids (http://www.gerberlife.com/gl/view/guide_products/esp/index.jsp), even though they are still babies. Time flies too fast.

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