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'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us'. These famous words from Charles Dickens 'A Tale of Two Cities' probably best describe the situation parents find themselves in an empty nest syndrome.
A mother nurtures, cares, teachers and protects her children the best she can. Her baby is now an adult and soon will be living in another place – although she is still playing a crucial part in her child's life, there are moments when she starts feeling depressed and lonely. This is normal but she does have a life to live as well.
Empty nest syndrome is that feeling of loneliness, a mother or father or guardians may feel when their children leave home for the first time to live on their own. This could be to attend college or a university or leave home on employment.
Since, the departure of a young adult from a parent's home is a normal and healthy event the symptoms of 'empty nest' often go unrecognized. The departure of children from their 'nest' leads to adjustment in their parent's lives. Empty nest syndrome is especially common in women and more so, among full time homemakers.
Factors for empty nest syndrome
Although most parents are susceptible to empty nest syndrome, some factors can create a predisposition to it. These include an unsatisfactory marriage and difficulty in adopting to change in general. While stay at home moms and dads are especially vulnerable to empty nest syndrome, adults who are undergoing menopause and other stressful situations, lost a spouse and retired are more likely to experience this syndrome.
Research suggests that some parents suffer this syndrome more than others because they consider it as stressful rather than challenging or refreshing. It is an emotionally painful experience for them.
For many women, motherhood has been the primary role and this is true even of working mothers. As the last child moves out of the nest, she could feel worthless, disoriented and quite unsure of what the future may hold for her. The challenges faced by parents experiencing empty nest syndrome include trying to establish a new equation with the children who are out of their nest.
Research shows that even in fathers this syndrome is apparent. There are some fathers who are unprepared for this emotional transition. There are those who feel guilty for having lost opportunities to have been with their children before they flew out of the nest.
Coping with empty nest syndrome
Parents in empty nest face new challenges in establishing a new kind of relationship with their children, after they have flown out of the nest. They have to find new ways to occupy themselves and reconnect with each other. This is an age of technology and there are various ways to keep in touch such as mobile phones and Internet chat applications.
Parents can join professional associations or hobby groups. They could take up volunteer work and also expend their network of contacts. The parent has to nurture her/his emotional and spiritual self. Now is the time for the parent to devote to their own well being.
Recall and rejoice the happy moments spent in company of your children when they were at home with you. Allow time and space to be introspective and learn to enjoy creative activities.
Tips to tackle empty nest
Discus your thoughts with friends.
Don't underestimate the power of prayer.
Eating healthy, exercising and keeping up with regular routine is imperative.
Make your dreams a reality – look at the 'to do sometime in life' things and start doing them.
Set achievable goals – for instance enrolling for short courses. This is a time to explore new roles in life. You can find a new job or get involved in community services or even enroll in a short course.
Be cautious and patient with your spouse. This is a situation that is bound to be as challenging for him as it is for you.
It is not abnormal for children to fly when they develop wings. As parents, let us recognize the transition in letting go of them. Instead of getting depressed, we can help prepare our children in the years before they leave. Teach them to handle routine things such as laundry, shop for groceries, cook and budget finances. Educating them to be independent and responsible for themselves will cut down undue worries from both ends.
Recent trends of the last decade reveal that the number of young adults who return and live with their parents, called 'Boomerang Generation' is increasing. In the US, several factors such as unemployment and constrained job market explain this phenomenon. A census of 2008 shows that as many as 20 million from 18 to 34 years of age were living at home with their parents.