Is your child talking about moving out? Are you frightened that you’re not going to be able to cope with such a big change? Maybe you even feel guilty that you’re looking forward to the move! This actually has a name; empty nest syndrome. It doesn’t matter how old your children are, the fact is, you’re always going to struggle to get used to such a big change. You will fight with conflicting emotions from time to time, so learning how to cope is crucial. Here are some tips for helping your child and yourself through this change.
Feeling Lost And Empty
Many parents describe the feeling of their children moving out as emptiness; a feeling of loss. It doesn’t matter whether your child is moving into their first flat, away to university, or to the other side of the world; these feelings are totally valid.
You may even be confused with the mixture of emotions you have. You probably feel proud that they’re going somewhere in life, but worry that you can’t protect them, and sad that an era is over. It might sound extreme, but some compare the feeling of empty nest syndrome to a bereavement. Your whole life can feel uprooted and turned upside down. You might start wondering what to do with your free time, and end up getting upset and questioning the rest of your life. Some parents are even confused because they begin to feel envious of their own children, as they have opportunities that they never had. They then feel guilty for feeling this way.
It’s totally normal to feel this way when your kids move out for the first time. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad parent, or a ‘helicopter parent’. You love your child so you miss them, and they’re young so you worry whether they’ll be OK. It only makes sense! It’s an adjustment for both parties.
Speaking To People You Trust
If you’re suffering from overwhelming emotions, one of the best things you can do is speak to people you trust. This may be a friend or a family member. A problem shared really is a problem halved, so don’t hesitate opening up to them about how you feel. You may even be able to discuss the issue with somebody who has already been through it. However, it’s worth noting that children moving out can trigger mental health issues like anxiety and depression. If you experience these symptoms for a few weeks or more, make sure you go to see your GP. They should not be ignored, and you should never think that you’re being silly. It can be difficult to open up like this, but getting the help you need is important.
How You Can Start Helping Your Kids
This is going to be difficult for your kids too, no matter how excited they may seem for the move. Moving out on their own means fending for themselves, cooking, washing, and doing the things that you used to do for them. Helping your kids may be welcome from them. You could help them by looking for affordable apartments to rent, which will also help you to stop worrying about their finances while they’re away from home. Some parents even choose to guarantee their rent, or become their landlords themselves. Give them a few lessons in washing and cooking before they move out too. This will equip them with crucial skills before they go away. Your child may be adamant that they don’t need help, and in this case, you’ll have to take a step back. They might think that you don’t have enough faith in them to do things themselves, so show them that you do by relaxing a little.
The truth is, you’ve been preparing your children for this since day one. From the time you taught your child how to speak and that they must stick to rules, you’ve been teaching them how to survive alone. However, it’s still important to discuss certain things with them, such as when you will step in to help them and when they need to learn to manage problems on their own. Explain your limits well in advance. For example, if you don’t plan on loaning your child money if they go over their budget, make this clear from the start. Hopefully, it will make them more mindful of their spending in the first place.
Planning for contingencies is important. For instance, if your child is going off to college with your financial help, what will you do if they want to change schools later on down the line? What about getting homesick? Having a clear plan and discussing these things can stop hasty decisions from being made when people are emotional. You must think of every possible contingency, discuss it, and have a plan in place.
What You Can Do To Feel Better
Something many parents find helpful is reconnecting with their partner. With no kids to worry about, you suddenly have time to sit and watch a film with a bottle of red together, and cook more romantic meals. You can remember who you were before the kids came along. Think of this as a wonderful opportunity!
It’s a good idea to try to get new relationship routines into practice before the kids go. You may even need to work on your relationship a little if you’ve spent the last portion of your lives being a mom and dad. Remember, it’s normal to feel differently about these things too. One of you might be looking forward to the freedom that awaits you, while the other may really mourn for the loss of your child.
Finding ways to communicate with your child is important. Make sure you send them a text now and again, and keep them updated with pictures of your family pet if there is one. Your children need to know that you’re always there for them, even if they aren’t physically there. You don’t want to be overbearing with messages, but you do want to make sure you stay connected.
Making plans for yourself is crucial too. Don’t just sit around your empty house and mourn for your children. Set yourself a goal – could you run a marathon? Join a class? Start a new hobby? Your life isn’t over, so think up fun things to do. Redefining yourself is a must during this time. If you defined yourself by being a parent before, now is the time to find other things to do. You will need to work on building up other aspects of who you are so you don’t feel like you’ve lost a part of your identity.
Remember: Your Kids Will Come Back
Your kids will be back, whether it’s for a fleeting visit or during university breaks. In fact, many will tell you to make the most of your empty nest, as it probably won’t stay that way for too long. Until then, work on your other relationships (romantic or otherwise), and work on redefining yourself. It’s OK to feel sad for a while, but once you know your kids are coping just fine, you should feel better too. If your anxious feelings persist even after your child is settled and doing fine, there may be something else behind it all.
Have you been through empty nest syndrome, or are you struggling with it at the moment? Leave your own thoughts and ideas below for those who may need them. Thanks for reading, and remember, it gets better!