Empty nest syndrome - children growing up
Written by listed counsellor/psychotherapist: Owen Redahan. MBACP. B.Sc.(Agr)
5th September, 20140 Comments
This is the time of the year when parents are challenged. Hopefully in a good way but it may not feel that way. You could be seeing your first born heading off to school for the first time or it could be that your youngest child is heading off to university.
Your home feels empty or certainly emptier. Noise levels are down and the 100 questions of “Mum/Dad where’s my … (you can fill in that gap)” echo in the home no more. And yes, dad’s can suffer too even though some of them believe in being ‘manly’ and don’t want to show how they are really feeling.
But why is it so painful? Why do you feel empty? Are you depressed? Whether it’s the last child flying the nest or the first taking small steps to independency each stage is momentous. Not only for them but for you too. You’re anxious for them, worried about what might happen, wonder will they remember you and what on earth are you going to do with all that spare time now.
You may even by worried about your relationship. After all, the darling who has just walked out that door or through their first school gate occupied you and your partner. Gave you a sense of purpose - something to talk about. What will you do now? Is your anxiety making it difficult for your partner?
Your life, like theirs, is changing. You are getting part of it back and there’s no return journey. This can be exciting but also terrifying. Maybe it brings out the child in you who felt they were abandoned at the school gate? Maybe you have pinned too much of your life on that child and they are no longer there? Maybe you need to take a breath and really explore your feelings?
Talk to other parents. Don’t be ashamed of what you are feeling but if you think that they are adjusting better than you then maybe talking to a counsellor will help. Remember you are immersed in the issue. You are ‘losing’ your child. Having an outsider looking in with you can help put things in perspective. That’s not to say you won’t miss the little, or big, darling but you will learn to recognise better that it is your job to help them move away from you and to become independent like your parents did for you.
But perhaps your parents didn’t help make the transition go smoothly and this is what worries you - will you do right by your child? Or maybe you don’t know what to do with your life or relationship now. But discussing those concerns will help make them smaller and help you feel more in control.
Go on let go of their hand, feel the pain of separation and celebrate that you have supported them in their walk to becoming a confident and caring adult. That’s your job and always was from the day your first held that child in your arms.
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