The Empty Nest Syndrome (4)

Today we look at ways to minimize the effects of the empty nest syndrome which is both real and painful. As mentioned in previous articles on this topic the process of separation from your child and your child from you is both normal and healthy. It’s just that sometimes normality can be a little hard to bear.

It is important to remember that separation has been happening since the day the umbilical cord was cut. It did not begin the day your son or daughter waves you goodbye on his or her way to college almost two decades down the track. Although their physical presence may be gone from the house, they were slowly but surely lessening their emotional connection to you as a parent right from the word go.

And this is a good thing. However, sometimes the transition is not easy and many parents oscillate between sadness at the loss of their ‘baby” and also anger that their child has no interest in them anymore, as their young adult is so caught up with their own life and interests.

Marianne was extremely angry: “I feel like it’s all been for nothing! I mean, why did I ever have a child? You do everything for them, feed them the best food, fix their teeth so they look good, help them with assignments till the wee hours, and now, it’s just “poof”! They are gone!” Marianne was not coping with the last of her children leaving home. Her primary emotion was rage, punctuated by weeping sessions. I assured her that this was all normal stuff, that other parents felt like this from time to time and that it would definitely pass.

One of Marianne’s problems was her marriage. While still intact, it was unfulfilling for both partners and in an effort to find love she had devoted all her time and attention to her three children. When the last one left home, there was a huge void in her life. It truly did feel like her lifeline had been cut.

In this case, the empty nest syndrome was underpinned by a marital problem. Once we looked at the real issue for her anger and sadness, she was able to address it by doing what might have been done years before: she took time out for counseling and slowly reconnected with her husband. Today Marianne is a happier woman and a happier wife. And no, she wouldn’t want her children back in the house again!

Next article: more ways to avoid the empty nest trap.

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