Empty Nest Syndrome: Exam Results and Mental Health

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At this time of year, with many students waiting for their A level results (ENTER NEW DAY FOR ’21) and hoping they will meet the entry requirements for...

At this time of year, with many students waiting for their A level results (ENTER NEW DAY FOR ’21) and hoping they will meet the entry requirements for their first-choice university, much focus is on them and their emotions.  But what about the parents who are left behind.

In this article, we think about Empty Nest Syndrome.  Although this is not solely related to children leaving home to pursue a university education, it is a very common cause of it.  Exams results which differ from expectations can exacerbate the condition.  Plans to attend a local university and remain at home may no longer be possible if exam results are lower.  Alternatively, better results might present different opportunities further from home.  Children’s plans might change significantly and at short notice, leaving parents little time to adapt to a changing situation.

Other Causes of Empty Nest Syndrome

The empty nest syndrome is often something that occurs when children leave the family home to go to university. However, the condition can affect adults at any stage of their life. It can occur when entering retirement, when the void of a standardised routine and social interaction is first felt.  It is also commonly experienced by someone living alone after losing a spouse.

Symptoms of empty nest syndrome can include depression, a sense of loss or purpose, feelings of rejection, or worry, stress and anxiety over the child’s welfare. Parents who experience empty nest syndrome often question whether or not they have prepared adequately for the child to live independently.

In simple terms, empty nest syndrome is grief and loneliness caused when someone moves out of your home. The syndrome is caused by changes to our everyday environment.

Women going through menopause can also experience empty nest syndrome. A woman may feel under emotional stress associated with the hormonal and physical changes taking place.

Men also experience a change of hormones, including a decrease in testosterone. They may be unable to be as active as they once were and this might cause them to break away from social groups. This can lead to the feeling of loneliness and grief of empty nest syndrome.

Preventing empty nest syndrome

If your child is about to leave home try and prepare for this and plan ahead. You could look for new opportunities in your personal and professional life. Keep busy by taking on new challenges as this will help ease the feelings of loss.

Coping with Empty Nest Syndrome

  • Accept the timing Focus on what you can do to help. If your child is leaving home focus on what you can do to help them succeed.
  • Keep in touch You can continue to maintain your close relationship even when you live apart. Maintain regular contact through visits, phone calls, emails, texts or video calls such as Skype and Facetime.
  • Seek support If you are having a difficult time dealing with an empty nest. It’s OK to lean on loved ones and close friends for support. If you are feeling depressed make an appointment to discuss how you are feeling with your GP.
  • Stay Positive Think about the extra time and energy you might have to devote to your personal interests.

1 in 4 people in England need mental health support*

We’re here to ensure you do not have to face it alone.

If you feel like you need professional help, we’re a private mental health hospital in Windsor with nurses on hand 24 hours a day who provide expert clinical treatment.

You can call Cardinal Clinic on 01753 869755 for confidential help and advice or send us an enquiry.

*McManus, S., Meltzer, H., Brugha, T. S., Bebbington, P. E., & Jenkins, R. (2009). Adult psychiatric morbidity in England, 2007: results of a household survey.

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