If you have children of university age, then this is the time of year when you may find yourself suffering from ‘Empty Nest Syndrome’ – a phrase that repeats itself every generation, but remains just as emotive as it ever was – not only for mothers but also for fathers. [It is easy to think that the Empty Nest Syndrome only affects mothers].
The basic challenge is unchanged. Since your first child, your whole married life will have been re-shaped on the family model. Now you’re relieved of that particular responsibility, you may feel suddenly empty inside and disoriented, sad and somehow disappointed at the unfilled space in your life.
It is important to remember that this phase is a natural progression and many of will experience it.
Several recent studies have shown a surprisingly positive reaction by parents about the syndrome, previously identified with depression and sadness, in the public mind. However, the good news is that modern technology allows teenagers to stay in touch by mobile, and even text live video of their activities from even the other side of the world. It is a different way of keeping in touch but you are still keeping in touch and it is necessary to change your mindset and attitude to deal with this life change effectively.
Of course, it is understandable that a sudden and unwanted increase in personal time that you are unable to fill, may cause domestic problems and you may be needing to relieve stress at this time, perhaps even to share the experience with others, and look for solutions, perhaps in the form of usable stress busting tips.
So here are my 8 stress busting tips
1. Immediate Action
Make a plan for the first few weeks, to take your mind off that empty room and the sudden quiet. A holiday, a short-term job, a study-course – these can all usefully alleviate this stressful phase.
2. Allow for emotion
Depart from your usual discipline-and-control mode. Acknowledge the strength of the emotional upheaval, and relieve stress by giving way to those involuntary urges to laugh, or cry, out loud.
3. Retain some of the usual routines
If you find it disorienting suddenly cooking for only two of you, keep cooking for four, and just put two portions in the freezer for tomorrow. Then adjust when you’re ready.
4. Cultivate conversations with others
You may have become accustomed to speaking to your child over the years with your daily activity – they are there to chat to. Realistically, this is going to change as they will have their own lives to lead so now you’re ready to re-learn the satisfying art of speaking to others.
5. Read all about it
The well-known syndrome has been the subject of many authoritative books. Read them, and see how other people’s experience may match yours and what the experts advise to combat that possible sense of emptiness.
6. That empty bedroom
Don’t leave it as a shrine to the absent loved one. Maybe use it for storage, or a study with a wall-bed. Maybe re-paint and decorate it anyway to freshen it up. But don’t forget, your child may well come home at the end of term and still want to feel welcome and have their room.
7. Don’t over-compensate
If there’s still a child left at home, resist the temptation to smother-mother it all day by way of compensation. You’ll be storing up big emotional problems for later.
8. Talk, talk, talk
You and your partner now have more time to discuss things in private. Use it to analyse the problems and the possibilities of your relationship, so you can relieve stress and steer through this period successfully. Work on this challenge together. Use this time as an opportunity to take on new activities together.
This is a new chapter in your life, be pro-active and enjoy the moments. You are still a parent and your children still need you. But they may need you in a different way. But you are still there for them. That is not going to change and they need to hear this reassurance from you because, they too, are going through a life change as well.
Key points about ‘Empty Nest Syndrome’
- This phase of life is often identified with stress and depression
- Research shows that parents now feel more positive about it
- Check the practical stress busting tips for coping with the syndrome
Have your kids left home recently?
Do you find that Empty Nest Syndrome is less of a trauma than people think? Do leave your comment in our blog.
[Reprinted with the kind permission of Gulf News]
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