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Empty Nest Syndrome


Hi Mark,

I emailed you in Jan 07 about my situation concerning my 17 yr old daughter. Now, I am looking for your advice again.

My daughter moved out of our home, not with our consent, back in January. She moved into her boyfriend's house (his mom's house) but they have since moved into their own apartment. She only met this guy over Christmas, and he is on a methodone treatment plan for his oxycotin addiction. He is 21. She is in her last year of high school, but may not even graduate now as she very rarely attends school anymore. Her relationship with her two sisters has deteriorated big time, however it doesn't seem to bother her in the least. As well, my relationship with my daughter has suffered more than I can describe. Her relationship with her Dad is almost non-existent.

The last three months for me have been hell. My emotions are all over the map. She should have been at her grade 12 prom last night, such a memorable event in a young girl's life …instead she was in some shabby apartment with her boyfriend. She has totally distanced herself from her friends, now he seems to have become her world. Before she met him, she was always with her friends. I am so worried about her.

So far, my daughter has learned nothing from this experience. She sees no problem with her actions, she has not matured at all. She has shown no guilt or sorrow for leaving our home in the manner she did. (She told everyone that her parents kicked her out, and painted this picture of 2 horrible parents). When I showed up at her boyfriend's mothers house, she told me to go F myself. Never, has she spoken to me like that in all her life. She has not apologized for that either.

Anyhow, I am beginning to ramble. It is just that my life has been turned inside out since this happened. I am so heartbroken and it isn't getting any easier. I thought by now it should. My marriage is suffering for this too. My husband is so calm about it all, so accepting of it. He figures she made her choice, she is stupid, and one day will realize it. He feels he did nothing wrong, and there is nothing he can do about it. (Not that he even tries.) He is not loosing any sleep over this mess. To me, that is not normal. I don't think that my daughter has any idea what this has done to her family, the hurt she has caused me and other family members. If she does, she must not care because she seems very content, not a care in the world. No clue about how dangerous it is to be involved with a recovering addict, he doesn't work, he has no car, nothing going for him. Her forms from her education fund arrived last week …we have been putting away a little money each month for her post secondary education. That hurt too, she should be home filling out her university application. Instead, she has thrown away all that we have to offer to her.

I just don't know how to be acting anymore. Am I supposed to be supportive to my daughter? I have never been to her apartment. Now they are moving to another apartment next week, she asked me to help her decorate. I said no. I have been supportive in other ways, but I just can't accept her relationship with him. I can't stand the sight of him. How do I cope with all of this, I feel like I am drowning. Work is stressful lately …the project I am working on is a nightmare. My marriage has major problems. My father just got diagnosed with cancer. 2007 is turning into a hellish year so far. I am loosing my daughter, we are growing further apart, and she could care less. Meanwhile, I am dying inside. How do I deal with this anymore?

Thanks for listening. I am sorry for rambling.

Sad Mom

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Uh oh …the dreaded Empty Nest Syndrome.

Empty Nest Syndrome refers to feelings of depression, sadness, and/or grief experienced by parents and caregivers after children come of age and leave their childhood homes. Women are more likely than men to be affected; often, when the nest is emptying, mothers are going through other significant life events as well, such as menopause or caring for elderly parents.

Feelings of sadness are normal at this time. It is also normal to spend time in the absent child's bedroom to feel closer to him or her. If you feel that your useful life has ended, or if you are crying excessively or are so sad that you don't want to see friends or go to work, you should consider seeking professional help.

Parents gain the greatest satisfaction from the transition to an empty nest when they have developed and maintained good relations with their children as they were growing up. Extreme hostility, conflict, or detachment in parent-child relations may reduce parental support when it is most needed by children during early adulthood.

When a child's departure unleashes overwhelming sadness, treatment is definitely needed. You may need antidepressants, and you almost certainly could use some counseling to get your feelings into perspective. Meanwhile, look to your friends for support and be kind to yourself.

Time and energy that you directed toward your child can now be spent on different areas of your life. This might be an opportune time to explore or return to hobbies, leisure activities or career pursuits.

This also marks a time to adjust to your new role in your child's life as well as changes in your identity as a parent. Your relationship with your child may become more peer-like, and you will have to get used to the fact that your child is an adult now and no longer in need of services.

In anticipation of your younger children eventually leaving home, prepare for a totally empty nest NOW. Develop friendships, hobbies, career, and educational opportunities. Make plans with the family while everyone is still under the same roof, so you don't regret lost opportunities (e.g., family vacations, long talks, take time off from work). And make specific plans for the extra money, time, and space that will become available when children are no longer dependent on you and living at home.

Mark

www.MyOutOfControlTeen.com

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