Empty Nest Syndrome: 17 Signs and Ways to Cope with an Empty Nest

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empty nest syndrome

When a baby is born, it seems like an eternity until they to go to school. Then if you blink, you’ll find yourself with the empty nest syndrome.

Or so it seems.

If you aren’t old enough to know what I mean, just wait. But for those of you who have the empty nest syndrome looming on the horizon, I’m sure you can identify.

The empty nest syndrome is a very real thing. Some parents are counting the years and days until they enter it, while others are holding on to every last second of their kids’ childhood for dear life. And the latter group sometimes endures a bit of a life crisis when the last kid leaves the nest.

Negative signs of the empty nest syndrome

As I just said, many people struggle with the reality of the empty nest syndrome. Similar to a mid-life crisis, this stage in your life can present some overwhelming challenges. Let’s take a look at some of them.

#1 You feel like your identity as a parent has been taken away. When you have a child, it’s at least 18 years of having a kid living at home. But if you have more kids, then it could be 20 or 30 years of having children at home.

Some parents build their whole identity around being a parent, so for these people, they don’t even know who they are once the kids leave home. [Read: Weird trends millenials will have to explain to their kids]

#2 You are frustrated because you don’t have control over your children’s lives anymore. You’re so used to scheduling other people’s lives, and now you can’t do that. You don’t know when they are going to parties, or when they have a date. This loss of control can be very disconcerting for some people.

#3 Worry about what to do with the rest of your life. Now what? Unless you have a fulfilling career, a good marriage, and/or lots of friends, you might wonder what will happen for the rest of your life during the empty nest phase. [Read: I feel lonely – 30 ways to overcome the feeling of loneliness]

Dangers of empty nest syndrome

Not all people struggle with the empty nest syndrome, but many do. And whether it’s 20 years in the future, or you are well into the empty nest phase of your life, here are some negative things that you might encounter when the kids leave.

#1 Depression. If your whole life revolved around your kids, then having them gone might lead to depression. It’s like a death – the ending of a part of your life. So, it will take some time to grieve. And during this process, many people are prone to depression. [Read: 5 ways volunteer work can help heal depression]

#2 Withdrawal. Depression and withdrawal are very much intertwined. The more depressed someone feels, the less likely they are to venture out and be social. People who isolate themselves will only get more sad, however.

#3 Divorce. Some couples get so wrapped up in their children that they neglected their marriage. Once the last kid is out of the house, they may look at each other and think, “Who are you?” Parents who are out of touch with one another for so long might think they can’t fix their relationship, and thus, end up getting divorced.

#4 Substance abuse. Lots of people deal with change, stress, or depression with abusing alcohol or even drugs. Let’s face it – these make the person feel good *at least for a short amount of time*. They might use it to escape, but if they do it too much, it could develop into an addiction problem. [Read: What your favorite drink says about you]



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