For many parents, regular communication with their children helps to alleviate the symptoms of ENS. This can include weekly texts, emails or phone calls. Ian says it can be as simple as a text to ask if they need anything, or to invite them home for dinner.
Ian says that in times of stress and loneliness, reaching out for support from your partner, family or friends is also important. For Ian, he finds comfort in talking to or spending time with his wife.
A positive of having his children starting to move out of home is that it has freed up more time for him to do activities he loves and that make him feel good, like going on bike rides with mates, and hikes with his wife.
“I love training and now I have a bit more freedom to do events and go cycling or running with friends. I don’t think it’s selfish to make yourself and your partner or friends a priority, particularly in this later stage in life,” says Ian.
So what happens when you ease into life as an empty nester, and then your children decide to return home?
While it can be hard coming to terms with children fleeing the nest, it can also be difficult to readjust if they decide to return home. If children return home, whether for a short stay or an extended period, it’s important for parents to remember they are experiencing their own significant transition. They are learning to be independent and how to manage their own lives, whilst dealing with the challenges of being an adult. With the cost of living challenges, more adult children in New Zealand are returning home to save money. Ian’s advice on this, is that while parents instinctively care for and worry about their children, it's important to put boundaries in place if they do return home.
“Boundaries are there through the various stages of your kids’ lives and so, if they do return home as an adult, it’s important to still have boundaries, so you're able to coexist harmoniously.”
While it’s natural to experience temporary feelings of sadness or loneliness when children leave home, if this distress is ongoing and disrupts your everyday routine, it’s important to consider seeking professional support. A conversation with your doctor or therapist will help you identify coping mechanisms and explore ways to make the most of this newfound freedom.
Like Ian, it’s important to be positive about this next chapter for both you and your children. According to Ian, the best way to combat feelings associated with ENS is to get excited about the future.
“We are really looking forward to watching our kids and their generation change the world. We are excited to see our kids contribute to society, and to see where their careers and values will take them,” says Ian.
“As parents we’ve had our time being their number one priority and now, that priority should be their friends and partner. That’s really rewarding for us to watch, and we love witnessing their growth.”