Children Leaving Home Brings on Emotions for Everyone
‘Empty Nest Syndrome‘ is not a diagnosis but it does describe the grief or sadness many parents feel when children leave their family home to pursue their own lives. If we have done our job properly in raising our children, each child should eventually one day fly from the nest and out into the world to create wondrous independent lives, relationships and experiences of their own. It is easy to understand this intellectually and logically, but it is a bittersweet moment in the lives of parent and child alike. At the moment that a child leaves for college or moves away from home due to job or marriage / relationship, something irrevocably energetically changes in the parent-child relationship. The young vulnerable prince or princess that was born into your life is now a self-sufficient young adult with talents and gifts to share out in the world as they learn more about who they are through their relationships with others away from parental influence. Yes, things will never be the same… for child or parent.
Parents naturally experience a mixture of emotions when their children leave home for school, work or new relationship reasons: pride at their child’s accomplishments, anxiety over their child’s safety in the world at large, joy and wonder to see their child spread their wings to fly, sadness over a sense of loss of nearness of a loved one, and occasional overwhelming rushes of bittersweet emotions as you reminisce over your child’s major milestones in life (birth, learning to walk, first day in kindergarten, learning to ride a bike, birthday celebrations, accomplishments, graduations, etc).
Young adults also have their own mix of emotions over making the transition from home to college or self-sufficiency. It is common for children leaving home to experience excitement over anticipated new experiences and friendships, fear of possible failure at school or in their ‘adulting’ abilities, angst over being away from parents who have been their in support of them emotionally and financially, sadness over distance from and loss of siblings/friends/significant others, and thirst/desire for knowledge or expanding their talents and gifts.
In order to ease the transition toward empty nest for both compassionate action for the parents and the young adult (and any of their siblings), I offer the following tips. These tips are based on my experience as well as my clinical experience as an integrative psychiatrist working with parents and families for over 30 years of clinical practice.
Primary Tip BEFORE Children Leave the Home:
Find a hobby or passionate pursuit that is all yours alone or something you and your partner do. So many parents completely define them self as “I am ______’s mother / father” and have their children’s activities as their primary focus outside of work or household duties. We were all people prior to having children and we continue to be our own person after the children have flown from the nest. Reconnect with old friends or passionate pursuits and activities or find new ones. Do not put all of your life activity and connection eggs in the sole basket of your children. If this is done prior to your children fleeing the nest, you will have an easier time of the transition time when they do.
6 Tips to Ease the Stress of ‘Empty Nest Syndrome’:
1. Stay in Virtual Touch! Almost all college students today are required to have computers on campus and virtually all campuses have internet access in dorms, classrooms and libraries. Use a video computer site or program or a phone app like FaceTime so that parent, child, siblings and other loved ones can have scheduled contact where they can both see and talk with each other. It can be easier to feel less distance between parent/child when you can see each other as you chat about news of events going on in your lives.
2. Loved Ones Meditation: This is a great meditation to use when you are missing a loved one or for those times when you are feeling unlovable. It can be downloaded on iTunes or on Amazon! (It will be called the meditation for “Obstacle of Feeling Unloved”). I taught this meditation to each of my children at a very early age so that we can meet in the Garden of the Loved Ones any time no matter where any of us are.
Hint- While you can read this meditation below to your self, this meditation will be more effective if you have a friend or loved one read it with feeling to you or you can record yourself reading it with heart on an audio tape and play it back to follow as you meditate in a quiet private space. This meditation can also be found on a companion CD that accompanies our book Shift: 12 Keys to Shift Your Life or downloaded (for details see meditation page at shiftyourlife.com ).
Close your eyes. Take a deep breath and as you exhale feel all of your tension releasing from your body. Take two more slow deep breaths and each time you exhale, feel your muscles relaxing more and more.
Feel yourself walking on a soft, green, mossy path in the countryside. It’s an enjoyable spring day filled with the sounds of nature. The warmth of the radiant sun fills the air and your eyes delight in the beauty of nature. You are on your own special journey and it feels so nurturing to have some time for yourself. As you walk on the path, you are guided to a gently sloping field with wildflowers and every imaginable variety of colorful, vibrant butterflies. They are everywhere, fluttering, floating and alighting on the wildflowers. Feel the perfection of all this beauty.
Stop for a moment and allow yourself to fully absorb the scene. Allow it to permeate all of your senses. As you observe the scene more closely, one special butterfly will draw your attention. (Pause) Focus on this one butterfly. Take in its brilliant form and color. As you marvel at its beauty, the butterfly begins to transform. While you continue to watch the butterfly, it transforms into one of your loved ones. Your loved one is now standing there in the field surrounded by beautiful butterflies. Feel your love gently streaming towards your loved one and feel their love flowing toward you. The gentle peace of their love embraces you and feels so good. Be aware of the love flowing back and forth between you, healing and dissolving any and all past relationship strife, which has come between you.
As you remain focused on the field and all of its vibrant beauty, the butterflies begin to transform into all of those people dear to your heart. There are so many butterflies and they continue to transform. Now they are transforming into all of the special people in your past that have brought inspiration into your life. Watch in wonder as they appear before you. Express your love and gratitude to them all for enriching your life. Feel your love expanding outward and enveloping them all, and feel their love flowing toward you.
Know that your loved ones are constantly sending you love at every moment. You may return to this field at any time to feel the warmth of love and to spend time with or communicate with those who are dear to your heart. When you are ready to return from this beautiful meadow filled with loved ones, feel yourself slowly returning to your body and gently open your eyes.
3. Loving Benefactor Exercise: (This meditation can also be downloaded at iTunes and is from our 2nd companion CD for our book Shift: 12 Keys to Shift Your Life – (for details see meditation page at shiftyourlife.com ). This meditation is great for sensing/feeling your Loved One immediately.
Find a comfortable, seated position on a chair or cushion and allow your body to settle into position. Close your eyes and begin to focus your attention on your breath, following your cycles of inhalation and exhalation. Notice the rising and falling sensations in your belly as you breathe in and out and follow this for a few cycles.
Now try to bring to mind a heartfelt sense or visual image of someone whom you believe embodies the qualities of unconditional love and compassion. This person can be a friend or relative, a religious or historical figure, a spiritual being or just someone who embodies these qualities. Picture this person as if they were sitting or standing right in front of you.
Look into their eyes and feel the absolute unconditional love and compassion flowing from them towards you. Now, radiate feelings of love and gratitude back towards this person. Whenever you feel your mind wandering, gently bring your attention back to the image of the loving friend, historical or spiritual image and once again practice radiating love, empathy and compassion towards them. Feel their love, empathy and compassion radiating back towards you.
Stay with your Loving Benefactor and feel their love flowing to you and your love flowing to them for up to 20 minutes. You can also have your Loving Benefactor move slowly around your left side and stand behind your left shoulder to be with you as you go about your day. You can still feel them present when you open your eyes! Know that this Loving Benefactor is sending you love every minute of every day.
4. The Mountain Meditation – When you are feeling helpless, powerless, inadequate or have angst about meeting a challenge that is facing you in your life, the ‘Mountain Meditation’ can prove to be a transformative experience. If you are ready to feel your inner strength, click on the meditation above, sit back, close your eyes and prepare for a journey (led by ‘The Shift Doctors’) back to vitality and your powerful inner nature. Listen to The Mountain Meditation by clicking here! (This meditation can also be downloaded as the meditation for “Obstacle of Inadequacy and Powerlessness” here.)
5. Refer to the section “Primary Tip BEFORE Children Leave the Home’ (above)
6. Volunteer anywhere you feel commented to a cause. Volunteering is the quickest way to find a purpose and to get out of a funk. It gets you into your heart for other people which helps lift sadness and eases anxiety. With time you will share that compassion with your self and begin to pursue other self-loving, joyful activities.
Hope these tips and tools are helpful – they certainly have helped me with dealing with my own children leaving the nest. 🙂
Loads of Light to parents, siblings and children as they continue on their journey and create wondrously in their lives!
Tracy Latz, M.D. (a.k.a. “The Shift Doctor”)
**Dr. Latz is a mother of 3 adult children and has personally navigated the ‘Empty Nest Syndrome’ season with all of its joys and tribulations.
**The Shift Doctors (Tracy Latz, M.D. & Marion Ross, Ph.D.) are available for keynote talks, classes, events or for seminars (1/2 day or up to 2 day) on Energy Medicine personal transformation, team-building, motivation, anger management, intuitive development, or collaboration for private groups, conferences, corporations or corporate events. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or find out more about their books, DVD’s, CD’s and tools for personal transformation at www.shiftyourlife.com.