Wednesday 1 September 2021

Ad: Coping With An Empty Nest And Maintaining Strong Relationships

Mental Health is something that is incredibly important to me, and I'm delighted to be working with author Marie Miguel, who, over at Better Help, has played a part in creating a huge free online mental health advice library that anyone can access. Here she writes about something very familiar to me, and anyone else with grown up children - the time when they move out... and how that can affect all of the relationships in the home. 

Student carrying shopping uni co-operative food cropped

Coping With An Empty Nest And Maintaining Strong Relationships

For many parents, there seems to be an unseen countdown to the day when you no longer have your kids in the house. There will no longer be shouting from the other end of the house, an extra pair of shoes at the door, or a cluttered bedroom to clean. Instead, what is there to expect? And are you ready to take on that new step in life after they’re grown and on their own? Here’s how you can cope with empty nest syndrome and effectively maintain a strong relationship with your kids.

What Is Empty Nest Syndrome?

“Empty nest syndrome” refers to the empty or grieving feeling a parent feels after the last of their children has moved out of the house. The phrase is in reference to a bird's nest after the babies have learned to fly away. While some parents may joke about being excited to have their own house to themselves again or the plans they have to renovate the “spare bedroom”, it’s not uncommon for empty nest syndrome to suddenly and unexpectedly hit.

It can also be difficult when parents are divorced and living alone. If you’re experiencing difficulty with loneliness and adapting after the kids move out, check out this BetterHelp article -

Empty nest syndrome doesn’t necessarily happen at a set time. It can set in just before your child is planning to move out, in the days or weeks following, or even later when they start to have a family of their own and you realise they’re most likely officially not moving back. This is a common and normal experience to have, more often occurring in mothers. These are a few effective steps to take to reduce the blow of empty nest syndrome and watching your children grow into successful adults.

My 2nd son Jake graduation photo with me beside

Plan Ahead

Regardless of whether or not you’re aware your child is preparing to move out, you can take any time to start preparing for the day they’re looking for new roommates. Yes, this means you can even begin as early as when they’re in grade school! You don’t need to necessarily map out how exactly you’re going to move their things, what vacations you’re going to take, or what you’d like to do with their empty space. Instead, it’s about setting up a mental health plan to get you through rough days, lonely stretches, and the possibility of reduced contact.

Keep in Touch

Communication works both ways and it’s crucial to set up a system before they’re out. If you two barely talk while they’re at home, it’s not very reasonable to expect them to call you daily after they move out. Instead, start making those efforts early on, reaching out when they’re with friends to check on them and making an effort to be invested in their day and plans.

For some people, one phone call a week is enough to feel in touch with their family. However, it’s important you both communicate about what feels right for you. Especially if they’re in school or a new job, they may not have the opportunity to reach out as much as you want. Instead, maybe settle for morning and evening texts or a regular phone call every few days.

My daughter cooking in her own kitchen at university

Rediscover Personal Time

It doesn’t do well to smother them with constant calls and visits. Instead, it’s important to show them you’re doing well for yourself by rediscovering what you enjoyed most about your personal time. Whether you love reading, picnics, or road trips, you now have the time (and maybe even the money) to focus on building yourself up as an independent person again.

One of the best ways you can keep a strong relationship with your children after they've left is by connecting as individuals. Talk about your interests as if you're close friends, breaking down that parent/landlord and child/tenant boundary. They've grown into their own person and have their own bills, goals, and struggles to talk about. As you connect together, remember that building a bond doesn't necessarily stop after they've "grown-up". It's a constant process that can always be improved and expanded on together.

Images: Some are taken from a piece of paid work back in 2018 with Co-op food, promoting easy and healthy home cooked meals for uni students (a Totem Card and Co-op Card give extra savings to UK students).

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