8 Things Every Parent Needs to Know About Empty Nest Syndrome
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
After Kerri Crawford’s graduation with a college degree in Child and Family Studies, she planned to earn a minimum salary of $30,000 working with adolescent girls.
“I had some pretty grand ideas about how things would go after graduation,” said Crawford. “It was much harder finding a job than I thought it would be, and the salary was not close to what I expected. My friends and I have joked that you should add a few zeros after your age and that is more likely to be your salary right after you graduate.”
Just like going from home to college was a transition, so is moving from college to the working world. Working eight hours a day, possibly moving to a new city, living alone, no more fall, winter, spring and summer breaks, and no more cafeteria food (not necessarily a bad thing) are pretty dramatic changes when you are used to going to a few classes a day, hanging out with friends, having your food prepared for you and maybe working a part-time job.
“I wish someone had told me how different it was going to be,” Crawford said. “I was so proud of my accomplishments, but I had unrealistic expectations. So I definitely have some advice for people who have just graduated from college.”
Some things would have been really good to know for after graduation, according to Kerri. She said, “I wish someone had told me…:
- Not to sell back all of my textbooks and to keep some of the notes I took in class. There seems countless times when I wished I could refer back to something I read or heard in a class.
- How important it is to build relationships with classmates. The world is a lot smaller than you think. I have run into so many people I never thought I would see again. These people become your co-workers and are great contacts in the community.
- Have an open mind when you are looking for a job. I wanted a job working with adolescent girls. I work mostly with adolescent boys in a job that I believe will be a stepping stone.
- Have good relationships with your professors. They know people in the community and can give good job leads and recommendations.
- Practice your interview skills ahead of time. I thought interviewing for jobs would be a breeze. After the third or fourth rejection, I had to rethink what I was doing. You have to learn how to sell yourself and what you are capable of to the person interviewing you.
- Experience in your field is an asset when you graduate. Every interviewer asked me if I had any experience. Looking back, I wish I had volunteered more so when they asked me if I had experience I could have responded with a confident yes.
- The real world is a full-time job. Not only do you have to adjust to a new work situation, you must also adjust to life outside of work. Instead of pulling all-nighters and taking naps in the afternoon, try to get a decent night’s rest. Be ready for financial changes. It is a whole new ballgame when you are responsible for rent, groceries, utilities, insurance, gas, etc. You may have to say no to the “wants” until you get on your feet.”
Making it to this point is what many young people strive for from high school on. Even though the working world is challenging, it’s time to put all of your learning into practice and experience life in the world’s classroom.
Image from Unsplash.com
Following a recent college graduation, a group of young adults lamented the fact that things were probably going to be different. They are no longer on their parents’ payroll. They are expected to find work and pay their bills. No more summers or semester breaks The big question is, are they prepared to launch into life in the real world?
Charles J. Sykes, author of Dumbing Down Our Kids: Why American Children Feel Good about Themselves, but Can’t Read, Write, or Add, wrote an op-ed entitled, Some Rules Kids Won’t Learn in School for the San Diego Union Tribune.
Though Sykes wrote the piece more than a decade ago, many would argue that the rules still apply.
- Life is not fair.
- The real world won’t care as much about your self-esteem as your school does. It’ll expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself.
- You won’t make $40,000 a year right out of school.
- If you think your teacher is tough, wait ’til you get a boss. He doesn’t have tenure, so he tends to be a bit edgier. When you screw up, he’s not going to ask you how you feel about it.
- Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping. They called it opportunity.
- It’s not your parents’ fault. If you screw up, you are responsible. This is the flip side of “It’s my life,” and “You’re not the boss of me,” and other eloquent proclamations of your generation.
- Before you were born your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way paying your bills, cleaning up your room and listening to you tell them how idealistic you are. Before you save the rainforest from the blood-sucking parasites of your parents’ generation, try delousing the closet in your bedroom.
- Your school may have done away with winners and losers. Life hasn’t. In some schools, they’ll give you as many times as you want to get the right answer. This, of course, bears not the slightest resemblance to anything in real life.
- Life is not divided into semesters, and you don’t get summers off. They expect you to show up every day for eight hours. Very few jobs are interested in fostering your self-expression or helping you find yourself.
- Television is not real life. Your life is not a sitcom. Your problems will not all be solved in 30 minutes, minus time for commercials. In real life, people actually have to leave the coffee shop to go to jobs.
- Be nice to nerds. You may end up working for them.
- Smoking does not make you look cool.
- You are not immortal.
- Enjoy this while you can. Sure, parents are a pain, school’s a bother and life is depressing. But someday you’ll realize how wonderful it was to be a kid. Maybe you should start now.
Looking for more resources? Watch this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!
Parents of graduating seniors have probably heard more than once, “I can’t wait until I don’t have to listen to your rules and I can do whatever I want.”
Most seniors are giddy over the idea of heading off to college. They are eager to choose their own bedtime, where they keep their things and how late they stay out. As launching time approaches, many of these seniors who were super-confident at graduation start questioning themselves and their next steps after graduation: What if I chose the wrong college? What if I don’t make any friends? What if I am choosing the wrong career track?
Many parents are also experiencing a mixed bag of emotions. They are excited about their teen taking the next step, yet somewhat fearful about their future. Parents realize a big transition is coming and there are still nuggets of wisdom they wish to pass on, yet they don’t have much time to do it. They become clingy at a time when their teen is trying to be more independent. This can make for a very interesting and long summer.
Fortunately, all of this is a natural reaction to graduation.
What can you do to help your graduate successfully leave the nest with confidence?
Here are some tips on next steps after graduation—just for you.
Just listen. Let them talk about all of the things running through their mind. Try to do this without minimizing their feelings.
Remind them that they can choose to water seeds of doubt and let the lies grow or they can pluck them out quickly before the roots get too strong.
A little stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing! Any new journey will by definition produce anxiety. You can’t help but wonder about this, that and the other. The little bit of anxiety goes a long way to help us perform at our best.
Remind them that the applicant pools have never been larger than they are now. If they received an acceptance letter, they can rest assured that the institution believes they can handle the work. The letter speaks volumes about the preparedness they bring to the college campus.
Don’t believe that nobody on the college campus will care. There are many people on campus who want to see their students succeed.
As a parent, you may be struggling over your child’s next steps after graduation, too. Instead of trying to talk through this with your graduate, seek the wisdom and support of other parents who are already on this journey.
If you have always done your teen’s laundry, cooked their meals, managed their money and helped them get to school/job on time, STOP. Summer is a great time to learn how to do these things for themselves, since you won’t be accompanying them to college.