Empty Nest Syndrome – Life After the Kids Leave

By on September 4, 2015
Empty Nest Syndrome

By Lysa Barry –

What is Empty Nest Syndrome?

Definition: Is it a real psychological condition to be reckoned with or just a natural process of life?

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Empty Nest Syndrome refers to feelings of depression, sadness, and/or grief experienced by parents and caregivers after children come of age and leave their childhood homes. This may occur when children go to college or get married. Women are more likely than men to be affected; often, when the nest is emptying, mothers are going through other significant life events as well, such as menopause or caring for elderly parents. Yet this doesn’t mean that men are completely immune to Empty Nest Syndrome. Men can experience similar feelings of loss regarding the departure of their children.

According to Therapist and renowned author, John Tsilimparis, Mft, “Empty Nest Syndrome is a psychological condition experienced by parents when their coming-of-age children leave home (the nest) for college or even when they get married. The symptoms that parents suffer are typically feelings of sadness, anxiety and excessive worry over the welfare of their child. Some parents experience a deep sense of loneliness, isolation and many feel a loss of purpose in life.

Evolution of Empty nest Syndrome:

Today, more mothers work these days and therefore feel less emptiness when their children leave home.

What is the “Boomerang Generation or Boomerang Kids?”

In the last decade there has been a sharp rise in the boomerang generation: Individuals 25-34 who return to their family homes as adults to live with their parents. They return home due to high unemployment, economic reasons, extended education, divorce, etc.

What are the symptoms?

For example: depression, anxiety, worry over welfare of child, loss of purpose, loneliness, etc. Are these symptoms normal? How does one know when professional help is needed?

(Note: If symptoms persist and begin to impair ability to function and fulfill role obligations of everyday life, then seeking help from a trained mental health professional is recommended.)

Who is most affected by it?

For example: Parents with an unstable marriage, Full-time parents/stay at home parents, people whose identities are based around being a parent, etc.

According to the article titled Middle Aged Women and The Empty Nest Syndrome:

“Counselors say that empty nest syndrome usually occurs at around the same time as menopause, retirement, or the illness or death of a spouse. It also affects more women than men, since mothers provide the primary care to children. When they realize that their most important role – that of nurturing and raising children – is over, a feeling of panic and inadequacy grips them. They question the purpose of their human existence and wonder what there is left to do, now that the kids are gone

Coping with Empty Nest Syndrome

To lessen the impact of empty nest syndrome, here are some strategies you can adopt:

  • Remind yourself that it’s perfectly normal to feel sad and depressed. Keep your head up and be optimistic about the future. Spoil yourself when the occasion calls for it. Treat the departure of your children as a reason to celebrate your new found freedom
  • Execute changes in the house to keep your mind off the empty spaces. Tend the garden, redecorate your daughter’s or son’s room and convert it into a study, a yoga area, a room for meditation, an entertainment section
  • Communicate often with your spouse. Assure him you’re “not going crazy” but that you’re going through a difficult period which will pass
  • Spend more time with your friends and colleagues at work. Perhaps they too are feeling the same feelings
  • Don’t push your recovery period. Give yourself enough time to grieve, acknowledge your grief, and don’t do anything that seems unnatural and awkward, especially during the first few weeks of your children leaving
  • Reach out and help someone
  • Postpone any major decisions like selling the house until you’ve had time to think things more clearly
  • Continue your health routine. Don’t stop exercising and begin a ritual of junk food just because you’re feeling down in the dumps. Empty nest syndrome in fact is the time to double up on your fitness and health goals.”

Reframing the Experience: Starting a New Life – Adjustment Phase

Couples may have to redefine their marriages and give their relationship new meaning. They may have to face significant issues they have been avoiding for years because they were so busy raising kids. They have to redefine their identities and find a new place or new role to play.

Lysa Barry is owner and president of Barry and Associates, a Media Relations and News Bureau specializing in healthcare and other breaking news. She authors articles and has served on several boards including a regional position for the American Heart Association.

JOHN TSILIMPARIS, MFT is a psychotherapist, author and lecturer in Los Angeles where in addition to his practice, he has donated countless hours to those in need at The Southern California Counseling Center. He has supported media as an advisor and been a regular on the show, “Obsessed” which aired on the A&E Television Network.


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Empty Nest Syndrome – Life After the Kids Leave