Empty Nest Syndrome

Empty Nest Syndrome

1 November 2022

By Linda Dalton, MindSpace volunteer

The vibrant colours of autumn bring joy to many but the onset of long dark nights, dreary November days and the thought of the cold winter months to come can quickly bring on the autumn blues.

There are many reasons to suffer the blues, but one often overlooked is the empty nest syndrome.

At this time of year, the departure of many teenagers to university, often on their first venture away from home can bring great anxiety to their parents. While the young people head off eagerly on their new adventure, parents are left staring at an empty bedroom and wondering how their offspring will manage.

Of course, the stress starts way before autumn, with a year filled with uni choices, intense study and exams culminating in the all-important results day. From then on, it’s all systems go with preparations for a new life away from home.

The ever-lengthening shopping list and concern for the student’s ability to cope with the domestic issues of their new life, keep the looming sadness of the big day at bay.

But, eventually, come it does, with everyone probably wishing it could just be over with. Everyone’s reaction and way of dealing with the day itself will be different, but for every parent it’s a poignant time – the end of an era.

People might assume that it’s mums who are generally most affected, but TV chef Gordon Ramsay has confessed that he was “gutted” when his son moved out and was surprised by the extent of his reaction.

One local mum says: “When my first son left, he was due to drive himself to uni and took forever to do final packing and load his car. I couldn’t stand the hanging about for hours waiting to say goodbye, so I just went out and cried on a friend’s shoulder until he was ready.

“Getting used to him not being there wasn’t too bad, but I tried not to look into his empty (and tidy) bedroom too often. It was worse when he came home for holidays for a couple of weeks; it was the sadness of him leaving all over again. And it was no easier when my second son left.”

Other parents talk about feeling like they have lost a part of themselves, missing cosy chats with their teenagers and always having too much food in the fridge without a hungry mouth to feed.

There is plenty of online advice for parents who are suffering with what is described as a kind of grief – concentrating on positives and planning things to look forward to are among the most helpful. 

Focussing on your child’s best interests as they start a new chapter in their life can take the focus from your own feelings, seeing it as a beginning for you all rather than an ending.

Making new friends and taking on new challenges can also help. MindSpace has plenty of opportunities to learn, grow and establish new interests during the winter months ahead… why not take a look at the big range of activities on offer (click here), and give yourself a chance to get stuck into something new?