Empty nest syndrome

6min read

Mum hugging her teenage daughter

When a child leaves home, it can trigger a range of emotions in a parent - from pride and satisfaction to grief, sadness and worry. This can be compounded if you have other changes going on in your life at the same time. Some parents describe how it can hit them when suddenly they are not making dinners, driving their teens around or encouraging them to tidy up after themselves.

Key Points:

  • When your children are getting ready to leave home, it can be a stressful time. Lots of your time might be taken up helping them to get ready, so try to take a few moments for yourself
  • Make plans for the weeks after they have moved out so that you keep busy and start making time to enable you to rediscover yourself and your relationships
  • Whether it is spending more time with friends or pursuing a dream - think about what you want. You could take up a class, find a new interest or join a club to expand your skills and social circle

Acknowledge how you feel

When your children are getting ready to leave home, it can be a stressful time. Lots of your time might be taken up helping them to get ready, so try to take a few moments for yourself, just to acknowledge how you are feeling. If arguments are flaring up, or just if you think it could be helpful, talk to your child about how you are feeling. Try not to pass on any feelings of guilt - acknowledge that while you might be feeling sad or anxious, you recognise that it’s a positive step for them.

You may feel quite a shock when they've gone. It's the end of an era and the feelings you experience may be similar to grief. Stay in touch - if they live nearby, invite them over for dinner or plan a shopping trip together. If they are further away, keep in touch by phone, video calls or email. 

Rediscover yourself and your relationships

Make plans for the weeks after they have moved out so that you keep busy and start making time to enable you to rediscover yourself and your relationships. Do something that will help you to rediscover yourself. You may have more time for yourself now that the washing and ironing has gone down. Whether it is spending more time with friends or pursuing a dream - think about what you want. You could take up a class, find a new interest or join a club to expand your skills and social circle. If you have a partner, you may feel you want to rediscover your relationship now the focus has gone from the kids. Think of things you can do together now that you've got a bit more time to yourselves. 

The boomerang effect

If they live round the corner they may want to assert their independence but you can bet they still want to be around. And don't forget that if they are going to university they may soon be back for the holidays. Prepare yourself for this if you have got used to having the place to yourself.

Lean on your support network

If you are struggling with this new change and it does have an impact on your wellbeing and mental health, then do make an appointment with your GP for some support. Talk to your friends and family so they can give you extra support during this new adjustment.

Further resources 

It may help to chat to other parents on our forums to find out how they are dealing with this issue within their family life. You can also talk to us online via our live chat service, email us at askus@familylives.org.uk or call us on our helpline on 0808 800 2222 to speak to trained family support worker. 

We share the thoughts of some parents and teens going through this transitional phase

Understanding special educational needs and disabilities