Parenting: How to cope with empty-nest syndrome

Though we’re proud to see our children go out into the world as independent young adults, we can’t help but worry about them and feel the vacuum they leave behind

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By Delna Mistry Anand

Published: Thu 7 Sep 2023, 6:31 PM

Last updated: Thu 7 Sep 2023, 6:32 PM

As I watch my friends send their children to university, my heart aches for them, and yet I’m very aware that this time next year, it’ll be my turn. And again the year after — for my younger one. So it’s a back-to-back, double attack awaiting me. I left my parent’s home much later. These kids are just 17 or 18, so young and raw — how are they to face the world by themselves, I wonder.

Not a fan of the word “empty-nesters” — mainly because it refers to the sadness or emotional turmoil that parents grapple with in the wake of their children moving out. I’d rather reframe and use the term “ma from afar” or something sweet and soothing.

Whatever you may call it, the feeling is very real. And very normal. On the one hand, we’re proud to see our children go out into the world as independent young adults. And on the other, we can’t help but worry about them and feel the vacuum they leave behind.

A dear friend of mine with three university-going children said something that brought me immense comfort, “Once they come back for their first break, everything shifts, and you will feel a whole lot better,” she said.

Here are a few other time-tested suggestions on how to cope when our babies fly the nest, from parents who’ve been there:

1. Connect with your circle:

Use your time to reconnect with old friends, family members, and in making new friends. It creates a healthy, happy distraction.

2. Reinvent yourself:

Did you have a hobby that you couldn’t make time for? A new business idea? It’s a good time to start thinking about it again.

3. Set goals:

Set goals for yourself, personal and/or professional. Look forward to your steady progress.

4. Self-care:

Make a ritual to look after yourself, join a class, do yoga, walk on the beach, travel, meditate.

5. Focus on the positives:

It is easy to go down the road of nostalgia and miss your babies. And very natural for that to happen, but remind yourself of how important this is for them. Pray for their well-being, keep track of their progress and growth, share stories about them with your extended family, and do whatever you can to stay upbeat.

6. Stay in touch with your children:

Thankfully, we live in an age of technology that makes communication easy and effortless. Your child may be studying in the same country, or at the other end of the world. Either way, you can still stay in contact. Make that ‘good morning’/‘good night’ WhatsApp message a habit, and catch up weekly though phone calls. This predictability will bring you comfort. Physical distance does not equate to emotional distance. Stay in touch and show your children that you love them unconditionally and are rooting for them.

Life is beautiful, and change is an inevitable part of it. Accept and embrace it.

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