Empty Nesters Who Thrive Rather Than Grieve

As the final long weekend of summer arrives, college students are flocking back to campus.  In the blink of an eye, awkward teenagers have blossomed into young adults finding their way in the world, leaving mom and dad at home alone together for the first time in possibly decades.  When children are young and demanding of all your time and energy, parents longingly dream of the days when they will be empty nesters enjoying time as a couple once again.  But sometimes this new dynamic can be difficult to navigate after years operating more as a parenting team than a romantic pair.

Although parents are always proud and happy their children are off to college or pursuing their dreams in other ways,  there may also be a sense of grief losing the close physical connection families share in a common home.   But empty nesters can also choose to embrace their newly-found freedom and feelings of excitement at what the future may hold now that they are freed from some of their parental duties.  After dropping the kids at school or helping them move into their first apartment, it might be a good distraction to plan a trip, reconnect with old friends, set new goals or create new lifestyle habits just for the two of you.

Empty Nest Syndrome, a crisis of identity, loss of purpose or depression that some parents experience when adult children leave home, is largely being debunked by older adults who are seizing this time in their lives and their marriages to pursue their own interests.  A study published in the Journals of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, found that not only do parents look forward to renewing their marriage bonds and ties with other family members and friends when their children leave home, they also enjoy a more meaningful and mature relationship with their adult child. 

Single parents should not be excluded from sharing in the excitement and seizing the opportunities an empty nest can provide.  This may be the right time to start dating, get more involved in your community or to go back to school.   As the baby boomer generation ages, the number of empty nesters will also grow, creating a large community of older adults with time to travel, participate in sports or enjoy cultural events.  Instead of dreading the time when the kids leave home, parents today are taking full advantage of their well-earned freedom.