Beat the Empty Nest Blues

September 16, 2016

Parents you did your part, you got the kids through grade and high school, and now your youngest or only child is a college freshman, leaving the nest to fly free.

According to the Mayo Clinic, studies show that this transition of having an empty house can be overwhelming, leaving some parents with a sense of loss that can make them vulnerable to depression, anxiety, alcoholism, identity crisis or even cause some strain in their marriage or current relationships.

This strong emotional reaction is known as Empty Nest Syndrome.

“For the parents of a single child or for those bringing their youngest, the empty nest awaits them upon their return home…”, says Marshall P. Duke, Ph.D Professor of Psychology at Emory University. “I tell the empty nesters that the adjustment will take several years. It will. But it is not all, or even mostly, bad. This is an exciting time, indeed.”

Coping with the drastic change of dynamics in your home doesn’t have to be daunting. Here are a few tips to help:

  • Prepare for the Transition.
    Allow yourself to mentally prepare for the change. Plan out the logistics of each step in the process; from college necessity shopping, the orientation schedules and drop off dates. Organizing the transition alleviates many factors that can catch you or your student off guard, piling on more stress.
  • Get Busy.
    This is an opportunity to rediscover old passions and interests. Research some activities in your community, renovate your home or start that new fitness class. Book that trip that you and your spouse always wanted to take together. The sky’s the limit because this is not only a big step in your child’s life but yours. You are now a parent of an adult, and your responsibilities and routines are drastically different. Embrace the freedom.
  • Build a Support Group.
    You aren’t alone, there so many parents that have or are currently dealing with an empty nest. Reach out to others for support and advice. Check out local groups, therapy sessions and meetups in your community that focus on empty nest syndrome, anxiety and depression. Continue to stay connected with family and friends.
  • Establish Communication Efforts.
    Just because your kid moved out doesn’t mean that they are no longer a part of your life. Try to establish a way to communicate with your college freshman. Stay flexible about setting a schedule, college life is a tremendous difference from high school and availability can be less structured. Be open to alternative technology to keep in touch like email, video chatting and texting.

It is many parents’ goal to teach their “baby birds” to fly on their own. Launching your children to the next chapter in life is a large step, but an empty nest does not mean an empty life. For more information on support groups and clinical therapy, contact the Emory Psychological Center at (404)727-7451.

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