When your child leaves home for university, it’s likely that you’ll be affected by what psychologists have termed ‘the empty nest syndrome.’ After years of nurturing, it’s time for your daughter or son to become independent, to apply the life skills you’ve taught them, to unfold their potential and grow into their authentic selves.
This transition can bring many challenges for parents. It’s likely that you’ll feel a sense of loss. Your house might feel uncomfortably empty; you might feel as if you have too much free time on your hands. After investing so much time and attention in your child, you might initially feel a little disoriented, as if you’ve lost one of your main purposes in life. And there’s also your relationship with your partner to consider. Having children often means that your relationship to your partner becomes secondary. But when children leave home, the focus shifts back to the relationship. It means re-connecting with your partner, spending more time together.
But the good news is that recent research suggests that the ‘empty nest syndrome’ may have been over-stated. Research has even found that, although parents do feel a sense of loss when children leave home, they also feel a new sense of new freedom. They enjoy having less responsibility and more time to devote to hobbies and interests. And perhaps best of all, a 2009 study published in the journal Psychological Science found that when children leave home, couples’ relationships actually improve. Men and women whose children had left home reported greater satisfaction with their marriages than others whose children were still at home.
And of course, you’ll be there to support your child, only a little less directly. You’ll still be there to watch them flourish, only from a little more distance. It’s not the end of your relationship with them, but the beginning of a new phase - an adult to adult relationship, rather than an adult to child one.
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