Living in an empty nest: When your adult children leave 26



View Profile

I remember when our second and last child moved out of the family home and went to a big city. The place felt empty and my wife and I kept wondering what were we going to do with ourselves after spending the last 20 years turning babies into partially civilised young adults.

While we had encouraged our children to be independent, think for themselves and take responsibility for their own actions, the experience of seeing them go was still painful.

It took a lot of adjusting to and we spent more than a few sleepless nights worrying about our 2 children finding their way in the two big cities they were living in.

Because the “empty nest” is an experience that so many parents go through, I thought I would check on how the experts suggest we should handle it. The famous Mayo Clinic in the USA offered this advice:

  • Accept the timing – Avoid comparing your child’s timetable to your own experience or expectations. Instead, focus on what you can do to help your child succeed when he or she does leave home.
  • Keep in touch – You can continue to be close to your children even when you live apart. Make an effort to maintain regular contact through visits, phone calls, emails, texts or video chats.
  • Seek support – If you’re having a difficult time dealing with an empty nest, lean on loved ones and other close contacts for support. Share your feelings. If you feel depressed, consult your doctor or a mental health provider.
  • Stay positive – Thinking about the extra time and energy you might have to devote to your marriage or personal interests after your last child leaves home might help you adapt to this major life change.


Can we prevent empty nest syndrome?

If your last child is about to leave home and you’re worried about empty nest syndrome, plan ahead. Look for new opportunities in your personal and professional life. Keeping busy or taking on new challenges at work or at home can help ease the sense of loss that your child’s departure might cause.

Fortunately, it’s not all bad news. The Mayo Clinic went on to quote some recent studies that suggested an empty nest might reduce work and family conflicts, and can provide parents with many other benefits. When the last child leaves home, parents have a new opportunity to reconnect with each other, improve the quality of their marriage and rekindle interests for which they previously might not have had time.

Of course these days it’s getting progressively harder to maintain this “empty nest”. The “boomerang generation” have arrived and the kids keep coming back. It’s now easier and cheaper for older kids to live at home and it’s become the norm for parents to accept boyfriends and girlfriends who sleep over. Recent studies found that 39% of adults aged between 18 and 34 were either still living in the family home or had only recently moved out.

So if today’s parents want to really experience what the “empty nest syndrome” is all about, they should probably sell the family home when the last child leaves and be selective about who they give their new address to.


Tell us, how was empty nesting for you initially? 

Paul McKeon

Paul McKeon is the founder of the website and the publisher of 3 books about lifestyle issues affecting people in their 50s, 60s and 70s. The books are titled – “The Rest of Your Life”, “Relationships in our 50s – 60s and beyond” and “How to stay Healthy, Active and Sharp in Retirement”. All the books can be purchased on his web site. He had a career in marketing, tourism, sports promotion and publishing in Australia, the UK and S.E. Asia. His books and website stress that a successful retirement is about more than good money management and people need to consider the important lifestyle issues if they are going to find lasting happiness.

  1. Empty nest…..what’s that? Still have our 24 year old grandson living with us……and the others have come and gone too at different stages.

    2 REPLY
    • Christa he’s 24, what are you a Professional Housekeeper? Tell him to go and experience the world.

    • Tried it Percy but he keeps coming back! Actually it’s a long story and we are glad to be able to help out while we can…..and he’s a lovely lad. Husband whinges about the garage being full of grandson’s “rubbish” but apart from this he’s no trouble. Yes, I do his washing and ironing too but again don’t mind this. He feeds himself though and mainly eats at work or out.

  2. When our younger daughter left we were both still busy working, so it’s been a very gradual process of realising our time is now our own.

  3. After r our 5th child left home I remember my late husband saying…. This is like a second honeymoon…… But my goodness the house was so quiet.

  4. My son is 36 and has schizophrenia which no drug has ever effectively controlled. Unfortunately there is no-one but me and nowhere but with me. Mental Health does not concern itself with accommodation for people like him because they did not consider that by closing down all institutions, because of the abuses perpetrated by the so-called caring professions, they condemned people like me to a life of hell. Until they realize this, things will not improve – for him or for me or for the thousands of people like us in this country today. And what happens if I drop dead tomorrow? So consider yourselves lucky by my standards – I would love to even be able to believe that I might achieve an empty nest, one day.

  5. Our nest keeps getting Grandchildren in it so is never empty long and when it is we are fine!

  6. The house feels so quiet after raising your children to adulthood with the confidence and independence to leave and pursue their dreams and careers. It takes time to readjust to just the two of you at home but it all works out well in the end- well that’s how it is for my husband and I. We speak to our children every week and they are still very much part of our lives. We feel very blessed.

  7. Kids long gone, we are having a fabulous time now, but at the time I missed the slam of the back door and hear ” Mum can you come shopping with me, or do you know where my book is, can I have a loan” I missed them around the table. Then they met ” the one” and life was full once more, and so is the table.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *