Preparing for the Empty Nest Syndrome

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Some parents cannot wait until the day the last child leaves home and they officially take on the new title of Empty Nester. I am not one of those parents. When I felt like a part of me was missing, I learned I had acquired a condition commonly known as the Empty Nest Syndrome. After reading through symptoms of this non-contagious condition, I realized I had a full blown case of it. According to, symptoms can include loneliness, emotional distress, worry and anxiety, depression, grief for some, relief for other parents.

You may be one of the parents that never experiences any of the above symptoms, but according to a study done by, 66 percent of parents have experienced the empty nest syndrome. Taking some time to prepare in advance for it and the ensuing transitional life change will be beneficial for your mental well-being and can be a chance to rediscover aspects of your relationship with your spouse that you may have lost during all those years of your busy parenting life.

Five Tips to Prepare for the Empty Nest Syndrome

1. Connect with Parent Groups

It always helps to know that you are not alone and you don’t have to try to figure things out on your own. If your child is leaving for college or starting a new life adventure, connecting with others who are experiencing a similar life experience is key. In my case, our child was moving over 1000 miles away and I knew I needed to start meeting others moms who were going through a similar experience. I was fortunate to find several parent groups on social media. You most certainly won’t find a shortage of groups and there is sure to be at least one where you’ll find a similar connection. I found it helpful to find parents of soon to be college freshman as well as seasoned college parents to gain perspective from both.

Family Holding Hands

Whether to learn helpful tips or seek encouragement, there is something so comforting about sharing a relatable experience. This TikTok video explained in exactly 12 seconds how I felt every day when walking into my son’s empty bedroom. Loneliness and sadness can be a very normal emotion, especially during those first few months. Finding others to share in your experience with both compassion and even humor may be very helpful while transitioning to empty nesters.

2. Creatively Plan NEW Date Nights

You may expect bliss once your home is quieter and empty. Expectations are that you have all the extra time with your spouse or partner now. You can do WHATEVER and WHENEVER you want. I was surprised how many people told me this and that expectation alone gave me even more anxiety. I was suddenly supposed to be completely different in my marriage. The truth is, your new connection is probably not an automatic thing. In fact, things might get a little awkward for awhile as you rediscover your relationship outside of being parents.

Man and Woman on couch

Instead, be intentional in planning new things together and letting go of the expectations. Take turns planning weekend outings. Whether it’s discovering a new restaurant, hiking your favorite trail, or planning a fun date night game together designed especially for couples, naturally build your reconnection, and give yourselves time to discover your new space and time together. Creating intimacy in new ways can help alleviate the often unrealistic expectation of what life should be like once you’re empty nesters.

3. Fill the Space

Running from one activity to the next as busy parents was your normal day to day. Days flew by quickly with agendas full of things that had you constantly on the go. Suddenly, the activities have come to an abrupt halt and you find yourself with all the extra time you dreamed about, yet have no idea how to handle it. Remember that hobby you always wished you could start? That project you planned for years, but never had the time? Now is your time to begin in your new role.

I rediscovered a new perspective I had with preparing food. Cooking and I didn’t have the best relationship during our busy parenting season. It took too long, too many accommodations to take into account, and too many late dinners were not worth the effort. But once I had the extra time and space to fill, I began to enjoy the process of of it and the time it took to not only make a meal, but to share a meal with my husband on a regular, unhurried basis. I started a new connection with Hello Fresh meal kits and really began to love the creations I was making. As a self-described amateur chef, there was something very satisfying about the “paint by numbers” style of cooking. It helped open new opportunity for the creativity I craved in my newfound empty nesting lifestyle.

Whether it’s taking time to grow your own vegetables, or finally joining that Pilates class you always wished you had the time for, now you can begin to place back the focus on YOU.

4. Expect Discomfort for a Season

There will be uncomfortable days. Expect the discomfort and take the opportunity to learn and grow from it. You will often long for the days of the past and feel a deep pit of sadness in wanting to bring those days back. Don’t avoid how you’re feeling. Acknowledge your discomfort, your sadness, your grief. Equip yourself with tools and resources to help you through the messy and sad days. Understand that it is going to take time to grow through this transition. Remember to give yourself a healthy dose of grace daily.

Be aware that you will experience one or all of the symptoms of the empty nest syndrome. You’ll have good days and awful days, and days you didn’t know know why you were even worried. It will not be a linear progression to empty nesting bliss. It will be emotional, awkward, and your days may be significantly different. Look at it as a season in your life. Seasons do not last forever. Your discomfort will not last forever. Be ready to shed the layers of the past and open yourself to the beauty of the new stage you’re entering.

5. Find a Therapist or a Trusted Friend

I knew well before we officially became empty nesters that I needed to start seeking a therapist to help me process through the changes. My husband and I both handled our emotions differently and I was very aware that I would need more than just his shoulder to cry on when the reality of the empty nest would weigh heavily on my heart. I needed a professional to help guide me through the these changes. Even if you think you’ll be able to handle this transition without professional help, be open to have the resource available if you choose to use them.

Whether it’s a therapist or trusted friend, having that outlet is key to processing the changes you’re walking through. You may find you don’t need a therapist like I did, but having one or two trusted confidants readily available will benefit you on the days that are most difficult.

I never thought I would be here — living life as an empty nester. It was not long ago that I was that eager teenager counting down the days until I left for college seeking the freedom and the dreams I had longed for since I was a little girl. No one could have ever prepared me for the other side of that “freedom” as a parent. As difficult as it has been, I’ve learned that this can be a beautiful growth period as well. We have an opportunity to discover a new identity, to make connections with other parents, to explore different activities with our partners, and even to take on a new life passion. I made it. You will too.

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