Aug 10 2010

Dealing with "Empty Nest Syndrome"

Got kids heading to college? Dr. Paul Meier has some great tips for dealing with the transitiion parents face when their kids leave home.




“Empty Nest Syndrome” refers to how parents feel whenever their last child who was living with them leaves for college or to out on his or her own. Either parent can feel lonely or depressed (or happy and relieved and proud of the child) when this happens, but the most common thing I have seen as a psychiatrist is the Moms getting somewhat lonely and depressed when the last child leaves and many Dads celebrating having more independence and freedom in the home and feeling pretty good about the child going off to a career or job and becoming more self-sufficient. So here are some pointers for parents who may experience any emotions when their last child leaves the home, making it an “empty nest.”


1.         Being a Mother is the only job in the world whose success is measured by how little a child needs you when he or she goes out on her own.

2.         Don’t tell your child all his life what to do—teach him his boundaries and teach him to figure out what to do in various situations. Ask him or her to think of options for solving a problem he asks you about until he thinks of the answer you probably would have told him to do and then say, “That sounds like a great idea. Why don’t you try it and see if it works.” If it does, he gains confidence. If it doesn’t, teach him that it is fine to guess wrong, and to learn from it and try plan B.

3.         When the last child leaves, be sure you, the parent, do not spend an hour a day on the phone with the child creating dependence and possibly even bulimia or some other psychiatric condition. The parent needs good friends her own age and the child needs good friends his or her own age as well to share feelings and fears with.

4.         When a mother Robin feeds her baby Robins until they reach a safe age to fly, she lovingly pushes them out of the nest and they learn to fly on the way down. A few get injured, but most learn to fly. It is a necessary thing to do for Robins and for humans.

5.         Any child who remains dependent on his parents is more likely to be unemployed, be on drugs, and have other problems that come from not taking responsibility.

6.         NECESSITY IS THE MOTHER OF INVENTION—so when your child reaches a crisis, he is quite likely to think of a solution and grow from it. But pray for each of your children the rest of their lives, because LIFE IS DIFFICULT for all of us.

7.         The husband and wife who become empty nesters should plan on lots of fun things to do with each other that they were too busy or too broke to do earlier. Enjoy the good job you have done in raising your children, be proud of yourselves and of your child, and make it a time of celebration rather than a time of depression and loneliness.

Learn more about Meier Clinics here:

Listen to Dr. Meier here: Segment 1 and Segment 2

Comments (4) -

8/4/2010 10:54:52 PM
T United States
I am experiencing the "empty nest" in another way. My two oldest children (14 & 16) have recently decided to live most of the time with their dad, my ex-husband. And although they're still in the same town, I don't see them as often as I'd like and hear from them even less (only when they need something).

I've been experiencing the feelings of uselessness, emptyness, and just the 'not being needed anymore'. I am remarried and we have a pre-schooler, but somehow, it's not the same. I love them with all my heart, but at times, they just can't fill that void.

I knew that they would eventually leave the nest and I'd have to accept that, I just didn't expect it to come this soon. It happened quite abruptly and somewhat unexpectedly, so it's been pretty traumatic for me.

I would appreciate prayer for strength and that through all this, the faith to believe that God has a reason for it and that it is all for the good.
8/5/2010 8:08:33 AM
Roberta United States
I knew I didnt want to deal with empty nest so when my kids were teenagers we bacame fosterparents.  We got a brother and sister pair and adopted them. Afew years later we got twin boys and their sister.We did that for a few years and now we have 8 adopted kids and it will be along time until we have empty nest.
8/5/2010 9:39:57 AM
Toni United States
I was quite taken aback when I heard Dr. Meier's comments today.  I rarely see, in my work, my church or my community, that the mother feels the empty nest more deeply.  His comments that women receive their rewards from raising the children and that men primarily receive their rewards at work do not resonate with our family experience.  I felt as if I was listening to advice and comments from 50 years ago.  And Dads celebrating the child's independence?  Why, again, is that a "Dad" emotion?  We both raised our children; we both rejoiced in their independence; we both grieved deeply when our last child left.  Only after a lot of thought, prayer and talking to one another did we move on to the thrill of the empty nest.  And the thing we love most in this world now?  Any opportunity for all of us to get back together!  
8/7/2010 2:01:31 AM
Rhonda United States
Oh how I wish I could go through the empty nest syndrome. I pray every day for it to happen. My 22 yr old has 1 foot out the door (about to move out) and I can't wait for my 15 yr old to move on out too. I love my kids but I can't wait for my FREEDOM!!!! Smile Smile Smile Smile
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