The Empty Nest Syndrome is just what the name suggests, a nest where the nest has fallen silent as the young fledgelings have flown to start the next phase of their lives. Going according to the traditional definition, the empty nest syndrome is the feeling of emptiness, confusion or grief which parents suffer from when their child leaves home for mainly, college or any other purpose. The syndrome is not a clinical medical condition but can have adverse effects on your mental health, and your lifestyle.
It’s a world phenomenon that most parents go through. However, the age at which the children leave and degree of loss differ depending on circumstances of families as well as their preparedness for the excess space or lack of it. Historically, Indians did not get impacted by this because of the Joint Family System. There were always children to be looked after, household chores to be done, men, women and children to be fed, festivals to be prepared for and so many other buzzing communities and family activities. While the heartstrings of the parents were pulled when children left home, the house did not fall silent, it was still full of life, in most cases.
The New Context Of Life
Something has changed. The first and obvious one is the nuclear family system, coupled with two or fewer children. Children leave in quick succession, and now the favourite Rajma Chawal and Gujjia will have to wait till college holidays or leave sanctioned from work.
The centricity around children because of homework, project work, games, after school hobbies and whatnot. The mom is in her amazing avatar of being the Super Shakti with multiple arms. With new-age fathers pitching in the task of providing mental, emotional and physical nourishment to see your babies transform is indeed consuming, exhausting, exciting, crazy and yet joyful. However, this is different from the past where children went out to play with their self-invented games and waddled through school, some excelling and some not so much. There was no super focus on children. They were a part of the growth of many things. Some moms stop working because they feel it is their responsibility to focus only on the child after they are born. And when without realising that a child has reached a particular age, where they need to go away, they feel lost.
Some common signs of the empty nest trauma:
- Panic attacks
- A feeling of loneliness
- Not knowing what to do with your time
Another crucial observation is that parents are so involved with the upbringing of their children that the marriage is neglected and they realise this once there is no child in the house. Some parents drift apart after a child is born.
Here are some of our tips to fight the empty nest syndrome:
- Starting dating your spouse, rekindle the old romance and fun times.
- Catch up with friends that you lost touch with
- Stay in touch with your children, while giving them the space they need in their new world of college or work
- Look for activities and events that are designed for self-awareness. Start with small activities till you find one or two that you enjoy a lot
- Empty Nest Trauma is nothing to be embarrassed about. Talk to your partner, friend or psychotherapist that you feel comfortable with
- Maintain a diary, start collecting family stories, your own, spouse or children’s anecdotes. Create a family photo history
- You can consider finding a job for yourself. This will boost your confidence, plus keeps you busy.
It is okay to feel not okay when a child leaves; it’s okay to feel lost. It’s okay to wish they were still there but to understand that they are now and in letting go, you will be inviting them back.
Pack up the depression, the sense of loss, the emptiness. What is more important is to bounce right back and not feel depressed about it. Children do not always follow the advice you give them, but they do emulate what you do as a role model. Show them that you are a joyful individual in love with being and living in this fantastic world!
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