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Feeling Low? A Sign of Empty Nest Syndrome

Empty nest syndrome is not a clinical entity, rather it is a transitional phenomenon experienced by the parents when the youngest or the last child leaves home. Parents want their children to be independent, or to get a good education. But the separation is difficult sometimes. The phenomenon is more common in women as they are the primary carers in many cases.

The Unexpected Grief in Older Parents

Who is prone to be an empty nester?

  • Single parents and parents who have dependent children
  • Full-time parents and parents of a single child
  • Parents who rely on parenthood for identity
  • Parents who are in disturbed or difficult marriages
  • Mothers
  • Younger parents
  • Parents lack social support

Symptoms of empty nesters

  • Feeling of sadness
  • Social isolation
  • Anxiety/ Stress
  • Loss of purposelessness and meaning in life
  • Sense of insecurity
  • Boredom
  • Endless worry/ Guilt
  • Depression
  • Worrying about childโ€™s wellness and safety
  • Increased marital tensions

If the grief, sadness, crying episodes, or depressive episodes last more than 2 weeks or any suicidal thoughts warrants help from the professionals.

How to cope up with empty nest syndrome

  • Maintain hobbies and social activities. Increase the meetups with friends or join some activity enhancing classes such as exercises or yoga
  • Plan a communication schedule with children through mediums like emails, messages, video chats, or exchanging recorded videos and phone calls
  • Establish new goals like running, marathon or, learning an outdoor game to keep yourself busy
  • Consider reemployment opportunities also
  • Can revive the romance depending upon the status of the marriage. Share plans to explore new interests or common interests with spouse
  • Plan a vacation
  • Acknowledge your grief and discuss plans with your spouse
  • Write and keep diaries

Treatment

Only up-gradation of oneโ€™s identity to an adult child is needed. Therapy with a therapist is needed if daily routine activities are impacted by sadness and loneliness.

With the Boomerang generation on the rise in western culture and some developed nations, the empty nesters are expected to decrease in the upcoming days.

Reference - Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders, fifth edition, National Institute of Health, US

Dr Manicka Saravanan S

Dr Manicka Saravanan S
Consultant Geriatric Medicine
Kauvery Hospital, Chennai

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