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Isn’t it strange how we are bombarded with advice on how to cope with the empty nest syndrome – but mainly from one angle only – how to fill that gap! We are advised to lead an active and fulfilling life, take up new hobbies, pat ourselves on the back for a job well done and all the usual predictable suggestions. Of course, we’ll have a go and of course, we’ll probably enjoy it.

But what about coping with the emotional gap? Not enough is said about how, in practice, to maintain a successful relationship and an open line of communication with your offspring who are now branching out in life and finally leaving home. Surely, this is more important, in the long run, than an extra round of golf or joining the 50+ aerobics class!

Concentrate your efforts on sustaining a good relationship with your now nearly independent children. This is by far the most important issue at stake when it comes to dealing with the empty nest syndrome. Think long and hard about what sort of relationship you have had with your children in the period leading up to this moment. Ask yourself a few questions:

Have you been good friends over the years? Have you really tried to understand their inevitable teenage problems and dilemmas? Have they turned to you in a crisis?

If you feel fairly positive about the above, the transition will be easier and more of a natural continuation. Even if you know that your relationship has eroded over their teenage years (and whose doesn’t, if you’re being absolutely honest?), the empty nest need not be the final straw.

The situation can be turned round into something positive.
You can recover so much when you are confronted with what appears to be the parting of the ways. A few general suggestions follow which may be helpful:

Listen (and I mean, really listen) to their plans. Get excited with them.
Actually tell them how proud you are of their achievements to date. Now, every teenager has done something worth praising! Be practical. This doesn’t mean just handing over cash. It means helping them cope with the irritating issues of being an independent adult, such as handling bills, dealing with bureaucracy and accommodation problems etc. Always suggest. Don’t enforce your own entrenched views. After all, youngsters come with fresh ideas and quite probably, a better approach.

Finally, when all is said and done, don’t retreat. This is not a severance. This is an opportunity to adapt to the continuation of what is, possibly, the most rewarding relationship you will ever enjoy in life.