How to handle the empty nest syndrome

By: Courtney Hope

Author: Canadian Living


How to handle the empty nest syndrome

By: Courtney Hope
If you have children, it's inevitable that, at some point, they're going to leave home -- whether to go to school, travel, get married or start families of their own. While all parents know this, it can still be a hard reality to face. After raising children and having them close at hand for 18 (or more) years, seeing them take off on their own can be tough. But just what kind of adjustment can you expect when you're left with an empty nest?

To learn more about what it's really like once the kids are gone, we turned to the world of social media to ask some of our readers about their experiences of dealing with their empty nests.

1. It feels like an ending
While living independently is a new beginning for the child, it can feel like an ending for many parents. "It seems to me that it is much like finishing a really good book," says Kathy from Calgary, Alta., who experienced a great deal of sadness in the weeks following her oldest daughter's marriage.

When a child leaves home, it isn't just the end of a chapter in your life, but also the beginning of another. Use this time to enjoy your time with your spouse, and get excited for what the future holds for your children. "You are a little disappointed that the book is finished, but really happy that you got to enjoy it and really looking forward to the sequel."

2. The house will be quieter than you think

One of the most common complaints from empty nesters is how hard it is to lay awake at night and hear every little creak your house makes. "The fridge is always full. There are no wet towels on the floor, no doors slamming, no phones ringing, no late-night chats, no random hugs," says Sandi, a mother of three from Montreal. "There is just too much quiet." Remember, though, initiating something like a monthly or even weekly family dinner is a great way to bring a little life back into your home and keep your family bond strong.

Page 1 of 2 -- Discover how other Canadians adjust to an empty nest on page 2
3. Filling the void can be hard
Parents love to joke about how great it is to have their children and grandchildren come home, spoil them for a bit and then send them back on their way. But often the feelings of emptiness can return each time you have to send your offspring away.

"I think one of the biggies for me is finding out just how tough it can be to fill the emptiness of that nest," says Mike, a father of three from Brampton, Ont., adding "not physically, mind you, but emotionally." Prepare yourself by truly enjoying your time with your children when they are around, then talking through the emotions you experience with your spouse once they leave.

4. It takes time to adjust
It can be hard learning to live without your children being home anymore. Not only will you have to adjust to an empty house, you will have to get to know your spouse all over again, as a partner, not just a co-parent. "When it becomes just the two of you again, you feel a little guilty and a little sad," says Sandi. "Guilty because you know you can do whatever you want whenever, but sad because you have spent so many years getting them ready to go and never really realized how fast that day would come."

Don't expect everything to change in an instant. Accept that it will take time to make these adjustments, and learn to laugh at the experience of re-learning things with your partner.

5. It's OK to want them back
You can be happy for your children, but at the same time wish that you could keep them with you. "If I could, I would buy a huge house in the country with three floors," says Karen, a mother of two grown children in Collingwood, Ont. "Each of us would have our own place, our own space and yet still be together." It's OK to want your children to return home once they've left. Some do, once they finish schooling or travelling, or when they decide to have children of their own. But if they don't, it just means you have to put in more of an effort to reach out and remain close.

Whether they've flown the nest or will soon, losing your children to the next stages of their lives can be a difficult and emotional process. Use this time not only to reconnect with your spouse, but to take pride in your children's successes and to get to know them in a whole new way.

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How to handle the empty nest syndrome