By Divyasri Chakraborty
Give the ones you love wings to fly, roots to come back and reasons to stay.”
—The Dalai Lama
I remember clearly the day I left home for pursuing higher studies, my parents came to see me off with their eyes brimming with tears. Homesickness is something we often experience when we move out of our homes. What we often fail to notice are the feelings of the people we leave behind, most commonly, parents or guardians.
Parenting is a wonderful phenomenon. It requires tremendous amount of effort and love to raise a child. In the process, one becomes so much attached to their child that it breaks our heart to let them go.
Mayo Clinic (2009, February) defines the Empty nest syndrome as “a phenomenon in which parents experience feelings of sadness and loss when the last child leaves home.”
However it is necessary and eventually some of us may have to be in this position in future. So I dedicate this article to all the parents out there who are struggling hard with the relocation of their children or are reluctant to let their children go.
Here are some ways which might help you cope with an empty nest:-
Plan ahead – It’s easier to deal with the going away of the child if you prepare yourself before hand. For example, teach your children some daily skills, help them to be independent by guiding them to manage their own money, daily chores, etc.
Rediscover yourself – This is a very important step towards a positive lifestyle. Your lives have revolved around your child till they suddenly grow up and leave home. It’s time for those long forgotten hobbies, or the vacation you have been planning to take with your spouse for years. Dedicate yourself to learn something new and try out those buried ventures. For example, learn a new language, volunteer in a social service organisation, etc.
Keep in touch – When children leave their homes, they become busy with their lives and strive to keep up with their hectic schedules. Make it a habit to jointly agree on a particular time in the whole day where both you and your child can talk and communicate via phone calls, internet, etc. Effective communication is very necessary to maintain positive relations.
Be informed – Educate yourself with the phenomenon of empty nest. This will help you detect the early signs of the distress and help you deal with it in a constructive way. “Empty nest syndrome often coincides with other major events in life, such as menopause, illness, or retirement. A child leaving can precipitate a feeling of redundancy, accompanied by feeling lost, unworthy, and unsure about the future. Feeling sad and crying a little is a normal, healthy reaction to be expected of any parent; after all, it is a big change. It becomes a problem when you have feelings that stand in the way of your life.” (Christine Webber and Dr David Delvin, Empty-Nest Syndrome). Be mindful about your feelings and emotions.
Seek support – Talk to a therapist if you are feeling vulnerable and if you are not able to cope with your child moving out. A healthy circle of social support involving friends, family and relatives help a lot in recovering from an empty nest.
Love yourself – Learn to view yourself in a new light. Yoga, meditation, jogging, etc can help you stay positive daily. A healthy lifestyle includes physical and mental well-being. Discover the new ‘you’ and work towards transforming yourself into a more positive individual.
An empty nest syndrome is truly difficult to deal with but on the flip-side it can be a wonderful opportunity to recognise your true self. Let us begin now.