What Exactly Is Empty Nest Syndrome? And Do I Have It?

By Kim Kirmmse Toth, LCSW, ACC
Kim Kirmmse Toth, Transitions and Retirement Expert
Courtesy of Kim Kirmmse Toth, Positive Aging Inc.

Empty nest syndrome is a feeling of great loss or sadness when a child leaves home to go to college or just to get out on his or her own.

If you are the child’s mother or mother figure, you may experience a true sense of loss, loneliness, or even worthlessness. You may feel your job is over (it's not!) and your child doesn’t need you anymore. (She does!)

For some—and this is for both mothers and fathers—not being involved in your child’s everyday life may create a temporary identity crisis. You may find yourself depressed or anxious, experiencing unaccountable tears or simply being highly emotional. You may wonder who you are and what you are worth, if not a parent.

Believe it or not, this can truly be a significant and positive transition and period of growth for you!

Here are five secrets to ensure a healthy new life for you, without that much work:

1. Renew your marriage vows: if not literally, then figuratively.
It just might be time to remember why you are together and all the wonderful times you had before kids. Do a date night. Join a dance club or some activity that you both enjoy and can do as a couple. Now is the perfect time to recreate your partnership and enjoy the life you both deserve, together, without children. Ask your partner and set a plan together. How will you use this time together? Single? No problem! What can you do to enhance the relationships you do have, now that you have the time? Write it down. Now follow through.

2. Relish the time alone. You now have that peace and quiet that you have been wanting. Remember when they played their music too loud, their friends were too noisy, and you wondered if there would ever be peace again? Well, there is, right now! What are you going to do? Read? Knit? Paint? How will you use your quiet time? Make a list.

3. Reignite or begin new friendships. Solitary pursuits are great, but you need people in your life also. Think about the friendships that might have gotten put on the back burner while you were raising your children. Contact those folks! Tell them you are much more available and want to renew the friendship you once had. You also might want to add new friends to the mix. Get yourself out there. Socialize. Sign up for classes. Learn a new language or learn more about computers. Classes are a great way to do something you love and meet new people at the same time. How are you going to branch out now? Make a list.

4. Broaden your horizons. Make your world bigger. When was your last trip or vacation? You don’t have to go around the world, just get out of town. Expand your world view. Pick a place and go. Explore. Your children are making their world bigger just by leaving home. Now it’s your turn. Where are you going?

5. Find something meaningful and of value. Raising your children has been a full-time job. It’s certainly been meaningful for both of you. Now they are gone and you need to replace that; you need another way to do your special work. What are your strengths? What are your skills? How can you use these to help others? Whether it’s through church, community, or more global, your gifts are needed. What are your special gifts? How are you going to use them?

Life is a journey. Not only are your children embarking on one, but so are you. Take a look at the big picture of your life. Having your children go off to lead their own lives is just one small piece. Consider this time of your life a step forward, a step in the right direction. You now have your very own life, so go lead it!


Published October 30, 2008

Kim Kirmmse Toth
Positive Aging Inc.

Transitions and retirement expert Kim Kirmmse Toth, LCSW, ACC, founder of www.positiveaginginc.com, coaches, speaks, and writes for baby boomers on the joys and challenges of creating a third age that fits your desires and dreams. You may contact her at kim@positiveaginginc.com or 720-922-1201. Article republished with permission from Positive Aging Inc.

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