For most parents, the time they get to enjoy their children flashes in the blink of an eye. Who can’t recall when they were babies – the seemingly endless, sleepless nights, their first words, milestones and memories? Throughout their childhood most of us have struggled between the conflicting demands of balancing work and family life, and that as they grow into adults, suddenly, in a whisper… they leave home.
What is often referred to as ‘empty nest syndrome’: the feeling of sadness that ensues when our children leave home in pursuit of further education, their own independence or to start a family of their own. We are pleased that our children are learning to exercise their independence, yet alarmed by this feeling of deep sadness that overwhelms us. How can we cope and find pieces of ourselves that we have, perhaps, buried away in an effort to be the perfect spouse and parent? Coping is not as hard as you think, if you follow these handy tips:
- Use The Latest Technologies to Stay in Touch: Thanks to live video conferencing and social networks, distance isn’t quite as vast as it used to be, regardless of where your kids are headed to pursue further education. If you are used to being your child’s best friend, don’t let that change just because they’re leaving home. Let them fill you in all their defining moments at University so that communication continues to flow.
- Do That One Thing You ‘Never Had The Time To Do’: Did you always want to learn to bake fancy cakes, learn a new language or start Pilates classes and have you always postponed your dream to attend to the needs of your family? When your child leaves to further their education, you will find yourself with a lot more time on your hands. Now is also a good time to attend to nagging health matters you may have set aside in your effort to be a super parent. Make a list of all your roles in life: mother/father, spouse, fitness buff, etc. and determine which roles need to be emphasises to make you feel more fulfilled.
- If You Feel Down in the Dumps, Seek Professional Help: Empty Nest Syndrome is definitely not the exclusive domain of stay-at-home parents; just because you’ve also been pursuing work goals does not necessarily make it any easier when your children leave home to pursue University studies. If you find that you are down in the dumps for longer than is normal for you and that you are losing interest in other family members and in the things you used to love, you may be depressed. If so, you should seek the help you need. Often, simply going for a few sessions with a good counsellor can enlighten you on the new path you are about to take. Change is scary but it can also be very exciting! Make the most of it with a little help from a trained professional.
- Define and Commence A Strategy Before Your Child Actually Leaves Home: Waiting until the moment your child actually leaves home before you make crucial changes in your own life could be leaving things a little late. If possible, in the last year or so leading up to their departure for University, consider commencing a few activities that will stimulate you and emphasise your own independence and personal goals. That way, the sense of loss won’t be quite so vast.