How to cope when children fly the nest

17:46 27 August 2014

As children leave for university, parents can feel left behind

As children leave for university, parents can feel left behind


Most parents of young children would admit to looking forward to the time when they can once again enjoy a night out without having to find a babysitter.


But when that day finally does come, either because offspring have left home or gone to university, instead of popping champagne corks some mums and dads are left struggling with a huge sense of loss.

Whether it begins to set in when the university place has been confirmed, or if it hits you in the stomach suddenly after dropping a child off at their halls, the emotions some parents experience can be akin to grief as they let go of the child they raised and prepare to start a new relationship with them as an adult.

Psychotherapeutic counsellor Debbie Hare says she regularly helps clients comes to terms with this issue.

“Loneliness is the biggest one I hear about, and a feeling of being abandoned and neglected,” she says.


“The hardest hit by empty nest syndrome are single parents. When they are single, people find it really, really difficult.

“They feel like they are lonely and have been abandoned and are not wanted any more.

“People can become really depressed with it and it’s important they try not to go down that road.”

Debbie says the key is to “find out who you are”. That may sound like a pretty big task, but it can start with some simple steps.

For example, revisiting the things that someone enjoyed doing before they became a mother or a wife, or a father or a husband.

Debbie says: “You have to try to remember who you were before you had children. Sometimes people have forgotten who they were because they have been so busy being a wife or a mother.

“It could be listening to the music you loved when you were young, or looking through old photographs which bring back memories of that time.

“Finding and getting back in touch with old friends can help.”

Reconnecting with hobbies and past-times of when you were younger, can also help people to find new things that they enjoy, which can help to fill the hole left by a couple of rowdy teenagers.

One client of Debbie’s found that listening to old music led her to finding new music that she loved. Another decided that a teenage passion for photography had been cut short by family life and it was time to return to taking pictures.

“Find your old loves first,” says Debbie. “Things that used to make you smile. Go up in the attic and find that favourite dress you used to wear.

“You do it in small steps and it often leads to finding something new.”


  • Downsize your house quickly.. Stops the kids moving back in later, and stops your own parents thinking they can move into the newly made space to be looked after. Win Win situation.

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    Andy T

    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • Dads rejoice, you can clear all the rubbish out of their bedroom and finally you will have the room to set up your train set that has spent years packed up under your bed or in the loft. Yes when they visit they will whine that you have removed the last traces of them from your home, but think of the fatherson bonding time that your Hornby obsession will provide.

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    Thursday, August 28, 2014

  • Can't wait..

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    Andy T

    Wednesday, August 27, 2014

  • Don't loose hope abandoned parents: Wait four year until the university course is finished and your child now riddled with debt, poor employment prospects and little chance of being able to afford their own home will be knocking at your door again. By the time they are in their mid thirties they may be in a position to move out again.

    Report this comment


    Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site


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