With each passing generation, American family life is becoming more complex and diverse. We now have terms like “helicopter parents” (parents who seem to “hover” over everything their child does); we have “post-launch honeymoons,” “cellular leashes,” and “half-full nests.” There are the empty-nesters whose time is filled with aging parents who need care; or, with re-marriage, many empty-nesters have step-children or “half-nests.” Nowadays, with more American households having single parents, two working parents, and more children returning to live with parents because of financial or marital woes, there are many that are also facing new challenges as the home becomes less like an “empty nest” and more of a “revolving door” for boomerang children.
The term “empty nest syndrome was created by psychologists in the 1970s to define the sense of loss or depression that parents often feel when their children leave home. Though studies show moms and dads within the same family tend to experience similar feelings when their children leave home, the term is more stereotypically applied to the mother’s experience. It can also apply to perhaps a changing nature of the relationship with your partner, as parents now find themselves with the extra space (both physical and emotional) formerly occupied by a child. It does not have a defined medical or psychiatric code, nor are there medications to take for it.
Here are five tips to ensure a healthy new life for you:
1. Renew your marriage vows… if not literally then figuratively.
It just might be time to remember why you are together and all the wonderful times you had before kids. Set a date night.
2. Relish the time alone.
You now have that peace and quiet that you have been wanting. What are you going to do… read, knit, paint?
3. Reignite or begin new friendships.
You need people in your life; get yourself out there by joining a class or a club, or connecting with old friends via Facebook.
4. Broaden your horizons.
Expand your world by exploring new places; you don’t have to go far to see new things.
5. Find something meaningful and of value.
What are your strengths and skills? How can you use them to help others? Whether it’s through church, community, or more global, your gifts are needed.
In some traditional cultures where the older generations receive great respect and care, there are rarely signs of empty-nest syndrome. However, as these same cultures become more mobile and the extended family more scattered, the phenomenon of “empty nest” has begun to appear; China is one example of this. Therefore, it’s important to understand that “empty nest” is really a product of modern life, and that the definition could be broadened to refer to any time a child leaves the family home to establish a permanent life elsewhere.
Regardless of what you decide to do with your time and skills, make this transition a positive experience. Instead of visualizing a bird’s nest without any eggs, think of this transition as opening a new door in your life and your home. W