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10 Tips for Adjusting to an Empty Nest

A mother, father, and daughter stand outside their car.

Parenting comes with many important milestones. Some of these milestones are full of joy; like experiencing your child’s first steps or first words. Others might feel a little bittersweet; like sending them off on their first day of school. And some of these milestones are intense and life-changing; like your child moving out of the house for the first time.

When your child makes the decision to leave home, it can be hard to grapple with at first. Luckily, you aren’t alone in processing these complex feelings. In fact, we have some tips to help you get through this emotional transition and come out on the other side stronger than ever.

What is Empty Nest Syndrome?

You probably have heard of the term empty nest syndrome before. Don’t let the phrase confuse you, this is not a medical condition a doctor can diagnose. But it is a common phenomenon that parents all over the world will face.

This term is used to describe the common set of behaviors that parents experience after their child moves out. When a child moves out of their parents’ home, it’s not only an emotional experience, but a huge lifestyle change for the child and their parents. When parents have a hard time coming to terms with this transition, they are experiencing empty nest syndrome.

Symptoms of Empty Nest Syndrome

While there is no official diagnosis for empty nest syndrome, there are some symptoms that can indicate when a parent is struggling with it. Here are some signs to look out for:

  • Loneliness
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Loss of purpose
  • Nostalgia
  • Marital stress
  • Emotional turbulence

Who is at Risk for Empty Nest Syndrome?

It is common for parents of any background to experience empty nest syndrome, but certain parents might be more susceptible than others.

Single parents can be hit hard with feelings of depression, anxiety, and loneliness. This is because there is not another parent to lean on during this process. And as the sole protector and provider for your child, it can be very hard to fully let go.

Stay-at-home parents can also have a rough transition when their child leaves home. Parenting isn’t just a duty; it is a lifestyle. For stay-at-home parents especially, being a parent is their full-time job. Having that role taken away can be disorienting, scary, and stressful.

An older woman embraces a young woman with a backpack on.

How Long Does Empty Nest Syndrome Last?

If you are experiencing empty nest syndrome for longer than a few months, it may be time to consider getting professional help. Working with a therapist can help you process these feelings, as well as give you strategies on how to cope.

Everyone is different, so everyone has a unique response when their child leaves. Some parents can get used to this new lifestyle pretty quickly, but others might struggle a little longer. While there is no standard timeline for recovery, most parents will come to terms with their child’s absence in a few weeks or months.

You can come to terms with an empty nest sooner if you try to actively find ways to cope with it. This can be anything from finding a new hobby, to journaling all your feelings out. No matter what you choose to do, try to prioritize things that make you feel better rather than wallowing in your feelings.

How to Cope with Empty Nest Syndrome

The best way to combat empty nest syndrome is by taking care of yourself. Rather than grieving the end of a chapter, try looking forward to the start of a new one! Here are some tips to help you get started:

  1. Prepare beforehand: Don’t wait until your child officially moves out to start coming to terms with it. Instead, try to prepare for the upcoming transition beforehand. Start thinking of hobbies you want to explore, trips you want to take, or even some friends you want to reach out to.

  2. Create a new routine: If your child was a major part of your daily routine, it may be time to restrategize. Don’t be afraid of all this new free time, use it to your advantage.

  3. Find a hobby: You are going to have a whole lot more time on your hands, so why not spend it doing something you like? If you don’t have hobbies you already partake in, use this as a chance to explore new things!

  4. Set goals: Goals are a great way to focus on personal development. They can keep you grounded and prevent you from feeling directionless.

  5. Take it easy on yourself: Parenting is a labor of love, so saying goodbye is going to be painful no matter how you try to prepare for it. Don’t get mad at yourself for being sad, allow yourself to experience these emotions with no judgment. If you are looking for a private way to vent your feelings, try journaling!

  6. Self-care: Take time to do things that make you feel good. This could be activities like yoga, indulging in a face mask, or even just unwinding and catching up on your favorite show.

  7. Lean on your support system: Maybe you have a spouse or partner that can help you through empty nest syndrome. If you do, try to focus on spending time with them and rekindling that connection. Otherwise, don’t be afraid to lean on family or friends during this time.

  8. Plan a trip: Not having to take care of your kid all the time can come with some perks! Rather than sitting at home, take this newfound freedom and use it as a way to see places you’ve always wanted to visit.

  9. Make a Bucket List: Think about a time before you had your child, what were some dreams you had? Now is the time to finally act on them! Take some time to think about things you’ve always wanted to do, places you want to see, or experiences you want to have. Life doesn’t end when your child moves out. In fact, it’s really just the beginning.

  10. Keep in touch with your child: Just because they left the home doesn’t mean you’ll never see them again. Before your child leaves, try to come up with a good time for a weekly phone call. Giving yourself a scheduled time to speak with your child will help with feelings of loneliness, as well as give you something to look forward to all week. And remember family weekend is just around the corner! Before you know it, you’ll be scrambling to get ready for them to come back for summer vacation.

An older man srands next to a younger woman holding a box.

How Collegeboxes Can Help

Looking to spend just a little more time with your child before they leave for school? That’s what Collegeboxes is here for! We are a student shipping, storage, and delivery company that is committed to making moving back to school a seamless experience. Move-in day is hard enough, why not get a little help from a mom-approved service?

Through our ship to school program, we handle all the hard parts of moving. Once you help your student get everything packed up, we swing by and handle the rest! That means we pack up our truck, send it to a U-Haul location near campus, and deliver it straight to the dorms on move-in day. This gives you more time to focus on supporting your child through move-in.

With all the heavy lifting off of your plate, that leaves more time for you and your family to spend time together before school starts. Instead of bickering while packing up your car, you can enjoy a nice breakfast before heading to campus. Don’t allow precious moments to slip away, book with Collegeboxes today!

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