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Sending children off to college or into the real world usually is a proud time for parents. But there also can be sadness, especially when the last child leaves home. Empty nest syndrome isn't a clinical diagnosis. Instead, it's a phenomenon where parents experience feelings of sadness and loss when the last child leaves home.
It's common for parents to find letting go to be a painful experience — even though they encourage their children to be independent. Parents might find it difficult to suddenly have no children at home who need their care. They might miss being a part of their children's daily lives and their constant companionship. Parents with only one child or those who strongly identify with their role as a parent might have a particularly difficult time adjusting.
As hard as the change may be, having an empty nest can bring benefits to parents. Recent studies suggest that an empty nest might reduce work and family conflicts. Having an empty nest also gives parents a new opportunity to reconnect with each other, improve the quality of their marriage and rekindle interests with newfound time.
If your last child will soon leave home, plan ahead to keep empty nest syndrome at bay. Look for new opportunities in your personal and professional life. Keeping busy or taking on new challenges at work or home can ease the sense of loss.
Jessica Sosso, M.D., is a physician in Family Medicine inSparta, Wisconsin.
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