Despair or Joy - Prepare for Child's Departure from Home

From the GIC Summer 2006 Newsletter pdf format of    fybsummer2006.pdf  file size 1MB

A child's departure from home can be a mixed blessing indeed. For some parents, a child leaving for college, moving away, or getting married, can cause "Empty Nest Syndrome", a feeling of sadness and emptiness, which can be disabling. Others may feel like celebrating. Many people vacillate between these two states of mind. You can moderate difficulties with this life transition by preparing in advance to help weather it.

"Empty Nest Syndrome" often begins during the high school years. During this time, your child forms new friendships, goes out on weekends, and may experiment with risky behavior. Many parents become nostalgic for when their child was younger. A parent may also begin anticipating the loss he or she will feel when the child leaves home.

Beacon Health Strategies, the mental health and substance abuse carrier for Commonwealth Indemnity Plan and Navigator/Spirit by Tufts Health Plan Members, recommends the following strategies for coping with the transition:

Know What Feelings to Expect: If your only or last child is leaving home, the silence can be eerie. The telephone does not ring as frequently and visitors are not regularly dropping by. Couples who have diverted their attention from each other during child rearing sometimes experience marital difficulties. And, single parents can be devastated by the loss of such a tight parent-child bond.

Invest in Yourself in Advance of the Transition: If you have put off pursuing your ultimate career goals, now is the time to delve into this quest. Always wanted to take up a hobby or join a club? Now is an opportune time to explore or return to hobbies and other leisure activities. If you are married, plan activities and events you can enjoy together.

Keep in Touch With Your Child: Schedule time in advance with your child to keep in touch regularly, without being intrusive. Buy pay-as-you-go mobile phones, vouchers or prepaid calling cards to keep costs down. Send your child brief e-mails about what is happening at home. Make occasional care packages of useful items, such as groceries. Make sure you don't go overboard.

Despite these measures, if you are crying excessively, or are so sad that you don't want to mix with friends or go to work, seek professional help. "Empty Nest Syndrome" can be a grieving process, and professional help, and sometimes medication, can help.

Although some parents grieve when their child leaves home, others rejoice. Research by Karen Fingerman, associate professor of child development and family studies at Purdue University, showed that many parents found increased satisfaction and improved relationships when their children leave home. Some of this is due to the unprecedented number of mothers who work outside the home, which provides an identity separate from that of a parent that was not as commonplace before. When children leave home, parents have time to pursue their own goals and interests and reconnect with their spouse, friends and siblings. And, less expensive air and telephone charges, coupled with new technologies, such as e-mail, make it easier to stay in touch.

Whether you experience "Empty Nest Syndrome" or are kicking up your heels with new-found freedom, keep in mind that many children return home after college or living away. According to the 2000 census, almost four million young adults between 25 and 34 years old live with their parents. High housing costs, student debt, delayed marriage and other factors mean more children return home after graduation or even their first job. So, consider keeping a bedroom available, even if you are eager to move to a smaller place or to fill your home with a new found hobby!


This information provided by the Group Insurance Commission.