We’re halfway through May, and that means graduation season. Students are graduating from high school and college and starting a new chapter in their lives. New opportunities are on the horizon. But as the students begin a new chapter, so do many parents. A graduating student means the nest is emptying or possibly empty. 

It’s common for parents to struggle as kids leave. As parents, we often give most of our time, energy, and attention to our children. We believe we have limited time with our children, so they become our focus. But once they graduate and leave the house, your focus is gone, and it’s just you and your spouse. If you haven’t focused on each other, you may feel lost during this time. Empty nest syndrome kicks in.

What is empty nest syndrome?

Empty nest syndrome is the wash of emotions that affects parents when their children have grown up and left home to attend college, military, or work in another state. The emotions range from sadness to extreme grief, anxiety, and identity issues.  

Each parent reacts differently, though. Some may experience joy and excitement for their child. Others may feel as if they have no purpose going forward. So, how can a parent address empty nest syndrome? And how can you come alongside your spouse to help them out if they’re struggling?

1. Plan for it.

Graduation is coming. After your child has solidified their next steps, plan for how you will handle the following season. If you need support, plan an outing with friends to talk about how you feel. Remember, the goal of parenting is for your child to grow up and successfully leave home.

2. Find ways to occupy your time.

Maybe it’s time for a new hobby. If you’ve put off starting something new because you didn’t have time, the time has arrived. Give gardening or carpentry a try, take up golf, or join a book club.

3. Reconnect with your spouse.

If your relationship hasn’t been in the center of your family, it’s time for it to take its place there. Our kids’ activities can take the attention away from our marriage. Now is the perfect time to schedule some weekly date nights or a weekend getaway. Be intentional about reconnecting with your partner.

4. Stay connected with your child.

Even though your child has moved off, it doesn’t mean you can’t have a great relationship. Send them care packages with their favorite snacks. Talk, text, or FaceTime. Set realistic expectations, though. Your child is starting a new chapter in their life, and they may not want to talk to Mom or Dad every day.

5. Support your spouse in trying new things.

Maybe even try it with them.

6. Acknowledge your spouse’s feelings.

Just because you may not feel the same doesn’t mean their feelings aren’t valid.

7. Do something to make your spouse feel special.

8. If necessary, encourage your spouse to seek help. 

Every parent experiences an empty nest at some point, but you don’t have to do this new season in your life alone. Talk to your spouse about empty nest syndrome. Reach out to friends and family who have already experienced the empty nest. Connect with other parents whose kids are attending the same school. Surround yourself with a community that cares for you and will walk with you during this time. 

Other helpful blogs:

Keys to Avoiding Empty Nest Divorce

8 Ways to Celebrate the Empty Nest

Making the Empty-Nest Transition

A Practical Guide for Empty-Nesters

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