Some parents focus so much on their children that they forget about their own lives, which brings a sense of loss when their little ones grow up and leave the home.
Medical Advisor Gloria Hurtado Castañeda, psychologist, practitioner at Coomeva Private Healthcare
Just as little chicklings grow up and learn to fly, so do children. The term “empty nest syndrome,” refers to when and children leave the home and parents experiencing this as a tragedy, or as the beginning of a breakdown in their relationship or in the home. See also: Choosing not to have kids
Those who encounter this phenomenon, experience a “a deep sense of loss,” Mayo Clinic specialists explain in their medical guidelines. This can leave them vulnerable or lead to depression, alcoholism or a marriage crisis.
How does one rebuild their identity after their children have left? This is the question asked by many modern-day parents that must deal with their children leaving, as they have young children that seem to be better prepared to do so.
Psychologist Gloria Hurtado says, “This is a very biological concept taken from animals. And yes, while biologically we are like animals, we are superior in language, history, desire and in consciousness. Couples that experience this because at one point they felt that they lived just to reproduce, as it was taught to us that family exists just to have and raise children, and even that only a real family has kids. This concept is outdated.”
Be prepared for when the time comes
The psychologist states that empty nest syndrome happens to parents that worked and lived just to raise their children; they did not have their own life goals that they worked on at the same time, did not have a professional life was satisfying or gave them self-value, or did not have another life project that allowed them to strive for something that was theirs.
“About 10 years ago, we started to see couples whose lives did not revolve around their children. When they have them, they love them, but they don’t stop leading their own life an independent life as they are people that want to develop their working lives,” Hurtado explains, adding that these changes began when women began to realize that their role was not exclusively that of being a housewife.
So how can you deal with it? Hurtado says that this is similar to retirement, “When you near retirement, you prepare yourself to be active: some decide to start their own business, buy land, they begin to write or the garden. The situation is the same: if we know that our children are going to grow up and leave, it is important to create plans for this time to continue enjoying life as a couple, so that the relationship does not end.”
Preparing to become empty nesters, is a responsibility of the parents: they must change the perspective they have of their children. Children are not property or a way to fulfill unmet dreams, and they especially cannot serve as the replacement for a partner. When the relationship with a partner is not going well, it is very common for children to assume the role of being the responsible one and of providing support, which does not make things any easier.
In conclusion, Hurtado explains how important it is to not focus your life on your children, as this plan comes to an end at some point, which parents have no control over, “Get ready to say goodbye, and do so by working on and for yourselves”.
When children leave, some parents experience feelings of sadness, emptiness, loneliness and sorrow.
Strategies for the empty nester
Take action: This is the best way to fight the feelings of loss that come with being an empty nester.
- Accept that it is time: Try not to compare your child’s decision with your life experiences or expectations. Focus on what you can do to help this be a positive experience for them.
- Stay in touch: Even though you no longer live together, make the effort to stay in contact on a regular basis by talking on the phone, sending emails or making video calls.
- Look for support: If this is a challenging moment for you, use your support network to share your feelings (friends, neighbors, or extended family members, for example). If you are feeling depressed, see your doctor.
Stay positive: In order to adapt to this big change, try to focus on thinking about the extra amount time you will have to reconnect with your old hobbies.
One way to deal with children leaving the house is to spend time doing what you used to like to do, but stopped in order to take care of the family.