coping with empty nest depression

Understanding When Your Young Adult Doesn’t Need Your Help

There are many big milestones in a child’s life: from their first birthday to their first bike ride to their first time driving a car. But what many people forget, is that all those milestones are milestones for parents as well. With each “first”, our child gets a little bit more independent and brings them that much closer to the different “first”: the first time they leave home. 

Having your child leave home for the first time for college or a career is an exciting time. They are experiencing true independence as a young adult. But it can also be a difficult and sad time for parents. For the past 18 years, you have spent all of your time and energy taking care of this person, and now they are going out into the world where you can’t protect them and you aren’t aware of their every move. This is a common experience described as an “empty nest”. It is that feeling of feeling like your house or your life is a little more empty without your child there. When that worry or sadness sets in, it is not uncommon for parents to want to cling more tightly to their children. Maybe even resorting to calling or texting them incessantly. Remember that your child is no longer a child, but rather an adult beginning on the natural next step of their life path. 

Learning to Cope

Of course, letting go is easier said than done. But there are some things you can keep in mind as your young adult sets off: 

Celebrate their independence. Your child leaving home is a normal and natural part of life. Instead of being sad that they are leaving, celebrate the fact that you have raised a confident and capable young adult. 

Communicate. Just because your child is leaving home, doesn’t mean that you can’t still communicate with them. Before they leave, talk to them about what they feel is an appropriate amount of communication. For example, if they are leaving for college, they may feel like daily phone calls will actually make them feel more homesick or unable to move forward, but a weekly check in feels just right. Setting healthy boundaries around communication can be helpful to make sure that your child doesn’t feel smothered, but you don’t feel completely cut off. 

Trust your parenting. This is a big one. Trust that you have done everything you can to set them up to be successful in this next phase of life. Know that they will try new things, and inevitably fail as they learn. Remember that you have given them the skills they need to be resilient and make good choices in their next phase of life. 

Find new hobbies. If you’ve spent most of your time focused on your child, it’s now time to spend some time focusing on yourself. Chances are you’ve been so busy raising your family, you haven’t taken to time to do the things you enjoy. Maybe taking an international cooking class will spark your love for travel. Or joining a local hiking group reminds you of how much you enjoy being outdoors. Finding those passions can help you feel connected to others and fill your time. 

Seek out support. If you feel like you are struggling with your young adult moving out and feeling symptoms of depression or anxiety, it is important to reach out and find help. You can start by communicating with your partner or other family members to talk about how you’re feeling. You can also seek out professional mental health support who can help you process those emotions and create a plan for better mental health. 

Journey Home Young Adult

Journey Home Young Adult is designed as a 6-12 month step-down transition program. The home-like setting offers therapeutic support and the opportunity for greater freedoms, responsibilities, and practice as an independent young adult. At Journey Home Young Adult clients can further education and gain independent living skills. Based on structure, support, and mentoring, teens emerge from Journey Home Young Adult emotionally and intellectually equipped to successfully launch into a fulfilling life.

We help teens ages 18-23 who need ongoing support after completing a prior, more intensive treatment program. Our clients are developing independence while making the transition into healthy young adulthood. For more information please call (855) 918-0032.