It is that time of the year again when a big change is in offing in many households in which kids outgrow the schooling phase of their lives and are ready to enter college and hostel world.Admission in dream engineering/medical/law colleges is taken, seat secured by paying the fees, hostel room is finalised, important dates are marked in the calendar and the stage is set for the next phase. Preparation begins in full swing for the soon-to-be hosteller — keeping in mind what all he/she would require over there — from toiletries to laptops and phones — all are lovingly selected and purchased.
Finally, the day arrives when the new collegiates leave. While these young adults are eager to experience the charming world that awaits them, there is a set of individuals — the parents, who find themselves in an unfamiliar territory.
It begins from the moment parents reach home and an eerie silence greets them. After having spent every moment of their lives thinking and planning about their kids, continuously for almost 18 to 20 years, it is not easy to accept that suddenly there is no one at home who needs their care. This phase is often termed as empty-nest syndrome because it is actually the letting-go part which is difficult. One misses being part of the daily lives of one's children's and their constant companionship. Often, this time coincides with the mid-life phase of the parents when they start experiencing slowly declining faculties, decreasing energy levels along with some physical and emotional issues which ring mild signals that the peak of life is about to bid them goodbye. Reena, a happy mother as her daughter is going to Amritsar for her M.B.B.S., shares, “I feel as if there is no meaning in life anymore. I will have to learn to live without being a part of my daughter's busy schedule. I had completely forgotten about anything else for the last 17 years."
A few decades back this phase used to scare people as it was almost synonymous with depression and loneliness, but not so anymore. Like many other health issues, empty-nest syndrome is a well studied issue now and people are aware what to expect and how to handle the symptoms wisely when that period of life comes. Experts’ advise that one must not shirk from taking this phase head on and seek support and stay positive. To begin with, accept the change graciously. Give a pat on your back for having raised and a responsible child who is all set to make his/her own mark in the world in his/her own small or big way. Experience and enjoy the feeling of freedom from some responsibilities. Approach this phase of life as a chance to explore yet another world of opportunities and interesting avenues.
The parents get time as a couple and the opportunity to reconnect with each other again, to improve the quality of their relationship and rekindle their common interests. Pick any new hobby or some activity that you have always desired to learn, start a routine, engage in some philanthropic activity, join some hobby club like a reading or a cookery club, start writing a diary, exercise the green thumb that you may have, join a yoga class, start meditating, go on long drives alone or with the spouse, enjoy the togetherness of the two of you and sometimes just the silence.
One just needs to change the perspective and the point of view, take it as a beginning of another innings when there is no end to what one can do, learn and engage in. So, why not play on the front foot this time! Madhavi’s second child went to hostel last year. She shares , “Initially it was very hard adjusting to the empty house, more so, as I am a homemaker but eventually I started finding things that interested me but I had lost somewhere while taking care of kids. I have picked up my lost passion - fabric painting again. I have started a healthy routine. It feels like I am living for myself for the first time.'
- According to a research by Karen L. Fingerman, a psychologist, most parents now enjoy greater freedom, a reconnection with their spouses and more time to pursue their own goals and interests once their children leave home. In her study, most parents report that seeing a child walk the path toward successful adulthood gives them a feeling of joy and pride. Most importantly, the parent/child relationship actually improves for many parents and kids when children leave home. While the kids are all set to write something of their own on the canvas of life, the parents get fresh opportunities to paint their canvas anew with something unique reflecting the volume and substance of the years spent.
This article appeared in 'The Tribune' on 12th July, 2015