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Feeling lonely now that your child has gone off to college? It's okay, other parents feel it, too!

It's called 'empty nest syndrome' and there are ways parents can cope

GREENSBORO, N.C. — You've sent your child off to college. You felt the excitement of watching them grow, move into their dorm room, and make new friends. 

Now your home feels a little empty, but that's okay!

Jenny Edminson, a counselor with the Cone Health Partial Hospitalizations Program and Behavioral Health Outpatient Clinic offered ways parents can overcome empty nest syndrome in our 2 Your Wellbeing segment. 

What is empty nest syndrome?

Normal feelings of sadness, or loss, that parents feel when their children move away to gain independence. Empty nest syndrome does not have a clinical diagnosis, but is often marked by feelings such as loneliness or sadness. 

If parents are going to experience this – would it have happened as soon as the child moved out, or could it develop weeks/months after the newness wears off?  Could other life events trigger it?

It depends on the parents! Some parents may feel it instantly, others may not feel it until later down the road. Edminson says parents should see empty nest syndrome as a grieving process. There's no set time frame for when it will go away. 

What are the signs/symptoms for friends/family members to be aware of?

If these feelings of loneliness or sadness impact your daily routine that's a red flag to be aware of. 

For caregivers who may be experiencing this – what are some strategies/tips to help overcome empty nest syndrome?

1. Mental game: Normalize this situation. It's a hard time for everyone, and everyone goes through it differently. 

2. Know this is not an end: Change is hard and, if you consider it, your relationship with your child has evolved over the years. 

3. Frame this as a positive time: Your routines are going to change, you may be going to fewer soccer games or recitals. Find yourself new hobbies, or reinvest in old ones you put aside temporarily to be a parent-caregiver. 

Cone Health's Behavioral Outpatient Clinic in Greensboro can help you or your loved ones overcome these changes. To learn more about their services, call (336) 832-9800.