The Empty Nest Syndrome

Empty Nest SyndromeThe amount of energy you expend in raising your children is tremendous. Yet when the time comes for them to actually leave for college or to live independently, many moms find themselves feeling worthless and sad. HEALTH learns more…

When Roxanne’s only daughter was preparing to go overseas to attend university, she assumed it would allot her more time for herself. “I was heavily involved in getting Maria ready for university, with the studying, the entrance exams and the packing. I had secretly figured after she was gone, I could take up cooking classes yet it has been over six months, and I just can’t seem to shake the feeling that no one needs me anymore,” she laments.

The Feelings

The Empty Nest syndrome refers to the grief that many parents feel when their children move out of the home. This condition is typically more common in women, who are more likely to have had the role of primary caregiver.

Common symptoms of this syndrome include a deep sense of sadness and grief. Symptoms experienced but not limited to are loss of sleep, disinterest in doing day-to-day things, crying without a trigger, sleeplessness, lack of appetite, disinterest in meeting or talking to people, moodiness and a deep sense of loss and emptiness in life.


Empty Nest syndrome can afflict both parents, but mothers seem to be most susceptible as many mothers may have dedicated 20 years or more of their lives to bringing up their children and see motherhood as their primary role. In two-parent families, while mothers stayed at home, fathers developed careers and a life outside of the house. This is true even for most working mothers. Once the last child moves out, the mother may feel that her most important job is finished.


Most mothers adapt in time- psychologists suggest that it may take between 18 months to two years to make the successful transition from ‘mom’ to independent woman. When the Empty Nest syndrome occurs, the parental couple experiences role adjustment, fear and a changing relationship. In fact fathers report that, because so much of family life has for 20 years or more revolved around children, they no longer have much in common with their partner. Sometimes marriages have evolved into simply the relationship of a mother and a father; and with the children no longer occupying center stage, they have to work through some critical relationship issues.

Suggestions for coping include:

  1. Acknowledge your grief and allow yourself to feel upset.
  2. Focus on rebuilding and strengthening your marriage. Spend more time with your partner and other friends
  3. Create your own rituals to help acknowledge your feelings. Suggestions include gardering or redecorating your child’s old room.
  4. Discuss your thoughts, feelings and future plans with your spouse.
  5. Seek advice and support from other friends who also have experienced ‘Empty Nest’ syndrome.
  6. Give yourself time to adapt to the changes.
  7. Keep up regular routines and self-care, such as eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly.
  8. Seek professional help if you are feeling overwhelmed.
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