A dear friend in the US has just written that she is quietly bereft at the thought of her first born leaving for college in 2 years time. When children leave home there are very significant changes. Whilst for many the thought of having no dependents at home is exciting and a time of new growth, for some parents, especially women, the “empty nest” can be time of loss and depression.
There are several reasons why having children leave the family home can be a negative experience for some parents. There is the immediate absence of companionship and social interaction leading to a sense of loss. Parents may be left feeling purposeless and redundant as raising children provides meaning and purpose. Loss of identity can occur as being a parent is such a significant role and occupation it is an intrinsic part of one’s identity. Marital conflicts may arise as the joint project of raising children is removed and parents have less distraction form how they inter-relate. Children leaving often coincides with menopause, a time of considerable emotional upheaval that can leave some women feeling disconnected from loved ones. And then there is the absence of shear joy and boundless love that comes form watching your children being who they are.
• Plan ahead; you know they will leave so start engaging in your interests and activities before they leave
• Accept and celebrate their departure as it usually means that they feel independent and autonomous and have got to a point in their own development to start establishing themselves. A huge achievement for them and you!
• Get involved in their successful transition
• Set up regular contacts to stay in touch such as weekly meals together
• Stay positive – surround yourself with good friends and activate your social life
• Extend your experiences by pursuing new interests and hobbies
• Seek professional support if you feel depressed.