Every parent's fear: how to cope with an empty nest

Amy Buxton Amy Buxton
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Although your children moving out should be a positive thing, there is no doubting that it hits parents quite hard. Essentially, you experience a form of grief and when all the kids have flown the coop, you are often left with something called 'empty nest syndrome'.

We are here to tell you how to cope with your newly empty home and on hand to give valuable advice for what you can do with any freed up space. Try not to dwell on the sadness and instead, be happy about all the amazing decor possibilities that lie ahead!

What is an empty nest?

Empty nest syndrome is the feeling of grief and loneliness that many parents or guardians may feel when their children leave home for the first time, such as to live on their own or to attend a college or university. It is not a clinical condition, but this does not undermine how genuinely life-altering it can be.

Since young adults' moving out from the family home is a normal, expected and healthy event, the symptoms of empty nest syndrome often go unrecognised or worse still, are treated with a lack of understanding and derision. This can result in depression and a loss of purpose for parents, since the departure of their children automatically requires an adjustments in the parents' lives. Empty nest syndrome is especially common in full-time mothers but we know you experience it too, dads!

We hope that the scope for creating a lovely space, such as this one from Room Global should hopefully get you on the road to recovery.

Before you re-decorate get yourself to a happier place

While your children leaving home can be heart-wrenching, know that they are doing so because you have prepared them for adult life and this is the next natural step. Avoid comparing your child's timetable to your own experience or expectations and instead, focus on what you can do to help your child succeed when he or she does leave home. 

Always remember to keep in touch and never think that you can't continue to be close to your children, even when you live apart. By maintaining regular contact through visits, phone calls, emails, texts or video chats, your bond will be secure.

If you are finding the separation of you and your children extremely difficult, we recommend that you seek some support, whether from your partner, family members of professionals. Don't be tempted to take on too many projects at this stage, as you will be unlikely to finish them or be satisfied with the end results and still have an empty nest feeling.

Decide what you should throw away

Once your little bird has flown and left you with an empty nest and you have reconciled yourself to the fact that they are doing just fine, you might find your decorating mojo again and have the urge to start adapting their old bedroom. The first step in the process is knowing what you can throw away.

Closet doors and drawers will be bulging with long-forgotten T-shirts and lost PE kits and the amount of old essays that will clog up drawers and bookshelves will blow your mind! Don't even get us started about what might lie under the bed…  

It's best to give your kids ample warning before clearing out their stuff, as what seems like rubbish to you might be a treasured belonging to them and the last thing you want is to have an argument over some stinky old socks that their favourite musician touched once! 

Decide as a family what to do with the space

Living Rooms by Moda Interiors, Perth, Western Australia : modern Living room by Moda Interiors
Moda Interiors

Living Rooms by Moda Interiors, Perth, Western Australia

Moda Interiors

Your child may be moving, but psychologically and emotionally it's still their room. You have to be a bit sensitive to this mindset and decide how to transform the space, together. Is there a need for a guest room? Would dad like a music room where he can listen to his favourite records, or would an arts and crafts room be a practical addition? 

Whatever your grand plans, be sure to consult your kids and make sure that they are on board, otherwise they could feel as though they haven't got a home to come back to, should they need to and suddenly your empty nest feels less welcoming for them!

Be sure to have somewhere for your child to sleep

Wimbledon: modern Bedroom by LEIVARS
LEIVARS

Wimbledon

LEIVARS

No matter what you turn your child's room into, they are still going to need a place to sleep when they come home for a visit and don't think that they will just be bringing a few items either! You will most likely have a mountain of washing to do for them! 

If you've built a fabulous new home office or a gorgeous craft room, you are still going to need a bed or fold-out couch for them to get their heads down on. If you went down the route of creating a pretty guest suite, be prepared to have it overtaken by your youngster for a while, but don't worry too much; they will be leaving again and you can have your fabulous blank canvas empty nest back.

Don't fill the space with clutter

It may be tempting to gradually put all the items that the family doesn't have a home for in the new spare room, but this is a one way ticket to creating an unsightly and hard to clear out junk room!

That old spinning bike, the Christmas tree, the ugly ornaments that you mother in law gave you; these will all naturally gravitate to an unused spot in the house, but don't let them! Be ruthless and use the space in a more productive way. After all, if you wanted a room full of mess in the house, you may as well have kept your child in there and not encouraged them to fly and leave you with an empty nest.

If you are keen to create something exciting in your child's former bedroom, take a look at this Ideabook: How To Turn Your Spare Room Into A Walk-In Wardrobe. We just know you won't feel as sad about them leaving once to see the possibilities!

How did you cope when your children left home? What did you transform the newly vacated space into? 
Whitton Drive:  Terrace house by GK Architects Ltd

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