As children of all ages integrate back into the school year, sometimes this brings about overdue routine, stability, excitement or sometimes even new challenges. Interestingly enough this year may be more difficult than ever before specifically for the parental guardians of college-bound students.
The transition of children leaving the home is known as empty nest syndrome, which is accompanied with ever-changing hardships for many parents. And this is coming at a time after our children, our families, have all been under the same roof more often than not for well over a year. It's a condition of the pandemic and one that for some has brought about deeper family connection, new traditions, a closeness that may not have come about in the absence of harsh COVID-19 restrictions. This in turn intensifies the battle of the already bittersweet loss of children leaving the "nest."
Common acknowledgements of empty nest syndrome are emotional stress related to sadness of children getting older, feeling that one should have spent more time with their children, difficulty adjusting to how the family unit changes, and how connection may change with our partners. Frustration and feeling scared over lack of control one once had, and a loss of purpose, are all common amongst children leaving the home.
Feelings of distress, depression and anxiety can occur upon these significant changes. It is important to validate the emotional toll and seek to build support and connection with others. Some find it comforting to discuss the hardship with others who have experienced this themselves.
In time those who have been through empty nest syndrome may find a balance of tolerance and excitement with the new milestones that lie ahead for their child, while also recognizing what lies ahead for themselves, which could be embracing new opportunities for personal leisure.
We all deserve and need to experience support during hardships and change. It is very much valuable to invite supports to be a part of our lives, to let those know the difficult time we are having. If one is experiencing challenges, depressed mood and changes in their wellbeing upon this time of change, it is also worthy to connect with mental health counseling and/or relationship counseling as an approach to navigating this territory. One may contact their health insurance company for guidance of those who accept your insurance, discuss referral options with a primary care physician office, or conduct an internet search of counselors.
Until next time, treat yourself, and others, with care, patience and understanding.
Brittany Bennett of Niagara Falls is a licensed mental health counselor and the author of “SELF-ISH is the new SELFLESS.” Mental Health Well-being is published monthly in this newspaper. Send your questions to Brittany at email@example.com.