The Empty Nest Syndrome (3)
By: Beth McHugh 2008
Today we begin to look at ways to avoid or at least minimize the effects of the empty nest syndrome. As discussed in previous articles, the empty nest syndrome occurs when one or more adult children leave the family home and the parents, commonly the mother, experience bouts of intense grief in the period immediately following the departure.
The best way to minimize the effects of the empty nest syndrome is to prepare yourself for it. This process ideally begins years prior to your child leaving home. Knowledge is power and knowing that the empty nest syndrome is real and can cause intense pain, even clinical depression, is reason enough to take steps to avoid a major bout with the commonest symptoms.
We can do this by looking at the reasons for the phenomena happening in the first place. Assuming we have a normal attachment to our children, there will be an inevitable sadness when they leave home. There is a loss occurring.
Yet it is important to realize that the whole time we have been parenting our children we have been experiencing little losses all along the way. It begins with the loss of the newborn helpless innocent who becomes the walking, talking dragon-slayer who only needs his mother when the dragon decides to bite.
There is the all-important first day at school, which goes officially unmarked yet many a parent feels a sense of loss on that important occasion. It marks the end of the intense mother-child relationship and the child’s first real movement into the world. A world that slowly takes the child into their own future, that with each passing day means more and more self-reliance and less hand-holding by mother.
Adolescence brings another big shift and another loss to the parent, as it is in this period that our children look to their peers rather than their parents as their role models. The cord is being irretrievably broken.
This is a good thing and for those unfortunate children who are held back by parents with less than healthy agendas, there is trouble ahead for both parties. This is the time for parents to actively prepare for the “loss” of their child. The loss is only temporary but very necessary to the mental health of both parent and child.
Next article: More tips to successfully traverse the empty nest syndrome period.