Understanding Empty Nest Syndrome and 8 Ways to Cope

Empty Nest Syndrome is a term used to describe the feelings of sadness and loss some parents experience when their last or only child leaves home for the first time. Parents usually experience the pangs caused by an empty home when their children have left for college or moved out. This signifies the end of a significant phase of parenthood and can result in feelings of grief, loneliness, and uncertainty about one’s purpose or identity. This emotional experience, while not a clinical disorder, can be deeply distressing for many parents.

What is Empty Nest Syndrome?

When parents spend two decades or more raising children, their day-to-day routines, decisions, and concerns often revolve around their children’s needs and activities. The house is filled with hustle and bustle, laughter, arguments, events, and the ups and downs of parenthood. But when children leave — either for college, to live on their own, or to start their own family — the house suddenly feels quiet, desolate, and empty.

These feelings are a part of the process of adjusting to a new phase in both a parent’s life and in the lives of their children. While many parents anticipate the freedom that comes with not having children at home, the abrupt end of their primary caregiving role can be a jolt to their system. The result can be feelings of sadness, loss, and identity crisis.

8 Ways to Cope with Empty Nest Syndrome

  1. Embrace the Change

Accepting the reality of this new phase is the first step. While it is okay to grieve the end of a chapter, remember that life is full of transitions. Spend some time thinking about the possibilities that lie ahead. Make concrete plans to do the things that you have put off doing due to child rearing.

  1. Reconnect with Your Partner  

For couples, this is an opportunity to rediscover each other. Make plans to do things you have been wanting to do but have not yet gotten around to. For example, you could travel together, learn a new hobby, garden, go for walks, socialize more, or engage in other activities you both enjoy. 

Single parents can use this time to reconnect with yourself, your hobbies, your social group, and your passions. Try volunteering somewhere or taking a class. This will also enable you to not only experience new things, but to meet new people. 

  1. Seek Support

Talk about your feelings with friends, especially those who are going through the same phase. Joining support groups or seeking individual therapy can also be beneficial.

  1. Rediscover Yourself

During the course of raising children, many parents place their goals and aspirations on hold. Now might be the perfect time to revisit those dreams. Whether you pick up an old hobby, learn something new, or even change careers, explore what excites you.

  1. Stay Connected

Just because your child has moved out does not mean your relationship ends. Modern technology has made it easier than ever before to keep in touch. Your kids still need connection with you as well as your emotional support.

  1. Renovate and Redecorate 

Try using the vacant space in your home to create something new. Perhaps your child’s room could be transformed into a guest room, a hobby space, or an office. 

  1. Get Involved in the Community 

Volunteer, join clubs or groups, or participate in community events. Staying socially active can alleviate feelings of loneliness and give you a renewed sense of purpose and belonging.

  1. Consider Professional Help

If feelings of sadness persist and interfere with your daily activities, it might be helpful to consult a therapist. Individual therapy can help you find a renewed sense of self, develop coping strategies, and manage your symptoms.

Trust Mental Health has a team of BIPOC therapists that offer mental health therapy in California. Our services include depression therapy, anxiety therapy, therapy for teens, therapy for children, and relationship counseling, among others. Contact us today for a free 15 minute consultation. We will match you with a culturally sensitive therapist best suited to your needs. 


What is Empty Nest Syndrome?      

Empty Nest Syndrome refers to feelings of sadness, loss, and emptiness that some parents experience when their last or only child leaves home. It is not considered a clinical disorder, though for some people the feelings can be profound and might warrant counseling or therapy.

Can Empty Nest Syndrome lead to depression?      

For some people, the feelings associated with Empty Nest Syndrome can progress to depression, especially if they are predisposed to it or if they lack coping mechanisms. Educate yourself on the symptoms of depression and seek help from a mental health professional if feelings of sadness persist and interfere with your daily life.

Who is most affected by Empty Nest Syndrome?      

While it can affect any parent, mothers who have been stay-at-home moms or primary caregivers often report feeling the effects more acutely. Still, fathers and other guardians can equally experience these emotions.