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Restocking the Coop: Helping Your Parents Survive Empty Nest Syndrome

We often take our parents for granted, but their nurturing, instruction, and sacrifice is what makes our autonomous success possible. They brought us into the world, harbored us from its inherent dangers, and are now unleashing us unto it in the hopes that we will make it a better place. Part of that awesome responsibility is repaying the debt owed to those who came before us, especially the balance due to the people who bore the burden of sculpting us into considerate, responsible adults in the first place.

Lost in the excitement of finally moving out of your parents' house after 18 years (or 22, or 30, or 40) is the heartbreak your folks are bravely enduring with enthusiastic smiles. Whether or not they want to admit it, Empty Nest Syndrome is kicking in something fierce, and they are probably having a hard time reconciling their conflicting emotions.

On the one hand, your mother and father (or grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.) are proud of your accomplishments and newfound independence, but on the other, your absence is tearing them apart inside. Not only are you leaving the house, you’re leaving a massive hole in their hearts that will never fully heal.

Despite their protests to the contrary, your parents are definitely having a hard time with the fact that you are no longer living under their roof. It might be tough sometimes given your newly signed lease on all life has to offer, but don’t forget your folks. Here are a few small gestures that will go a long way toward giving your parents the confidence they need to transition into their new lifestyle and embrace the freedom your departure has granted them!

Prove Your Maturity. One of the best ways you can help your folks through this tough time is by showing them how mature you’ve become. Fold your own laundry, cook your parents dinner, buy your own car insurance and keep gas in your car. These might seem like everyday activities to you, but showing your maturity by proving that you can take care of yourself will greatly lessen their anxiety.

Reassure Them. Your parents are likely worried that you’re going to be in over your head now that you’re on your own. This is perfectly understandable, and what’s even more understandable is your desire to feed into their concerns through your own homesickness. Instead reassure them that you’re all embarking on new paths simultaneously. And while this might be a rocky period for everyone, you’re all going to make it through together, even if you’re apart.

Don’t Rub It In. There’s nothing wrong with sharing your experiences with your parents, but there’s no need to rub their face in the excitement of your adventures. Remind them that even though you’re thriving on your own, you’ll never forget your true home and the people who make it so. Your parents are overjoyed at your happiness, but they’re terrified of being replaced. Let them know that could never happen.

Support Their Interests. Many parents have been looking after their children for so long that they’ve forgotten where their own passions lie. Help them remember by asking about their lives when they were younger. How they met one another. What sports they played or hobbies they had. If they’re going to a new class or have started working out, make sure that you let them know how great you think their new activity is or even offer to join. This is the period where parents shift from guardians to friends, which is one of the most enjoyable parts of life for everyone involved.

Keep In Touch. Whether you’re moving up the block or across the world, don’t lose touch with your parents. Even if it means posting something silly on their Facebook wall or sending them a “Good Morning!” text, all your parents want is to remain a part of your life. Try to pick up the phone or send a heartfelt email whenever you have the chance – a 15-minute conversation might seem like a chore to you, but it is a treat for your parents.
Leaving home for good is an inevitable part of life for most of us. There are a lot of emotions involved for everyone, but remember, while you are moving on to an exciting new chapter, your parents are mourning the loss of both their child and a closing to the most important new chapter of their life. Repay their gifts by supporting them and reminding them how much you care. And hey, if they just feel like swapping you out for some cooler roommates, tell them where to look!