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Expat Empty Nest Syndrome: Fact or Fiction?


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Is empty nest syndrome a real psychological condition to be reckoned with or just a natural process of life?

Is Expat Empty Nest Syndrome a delight or torture for all of us?

With August here, many expats are heading back to their work locations. Some kids are going back to their International Schools; other teenagers will be leaving the nest and going to university.

Empty nest syndrome is a psychological condition experienced by parents when their coming-of-age children leave home (the nest). The symptoms that parents suffer are typically feelings of sadness, anxiety and excessive worry over the welfare of their child. Throw in that parents will be half a world away from their child and pow…interesting!

Experts say those hardest hit are parents without career obligations and/or parents who might have an unstable relationship. I gave up a job that I loved and have taken the longest summer vacation in my life thus separating me from the love of my life, so this might be an interesting time for me.  I decided to come up with seven self-tips to help during this time.

Here are my seven tips to ease the impact of EXPAT Empty Nest Syndrome:

1) Remind myself that it’s very normal to feel sad during this transition. So quit dancing around his empty bedroom. Quit jumping up and down with joy enough that it makes Raja bark and run around the house.  Get back to my normal life of quilting, blogging, and reading! Quit that foolish smile!

2) Think of this as a new beginning instead of a loss or sad ending. Not a new beginning for my kid off at college but for me and my husband’s new beginning. We can now just eat when we want to eat, watch TV we want to watch. We can stop giving each other the ‘deadly silent eye treatment’ when we wanted to make sure the kid does as we wanted with least amount of fuss. We can just actually talk out loud and communicate like the good old days when our child was under the age of one. Quit enjoying this time so much!

3) Stay connected to my kids via technology but do it on my time and my schedule. I don’t need to answer each email within 5 seconds.I will treat my child like I treat a job.  If a question comes up during my regular working hours, I respond, but after hours, the response can wait until morning.  This keeps my sanity and also helps my kids become more resourceful.  Remember as an overseas parent – time zones suck so why set the ground rules that will allow me to be worked up or irritated right when I need to go to bed. I won’t log on!

4) Lean on friends – Yes there is life after kids! Now I can stay out as late as I WANT or just go to bed when I want. I no longer have to wait up to do the “hug and smell test” good night squeeze! I can bug my friends and have fun. If I want to give late night hugs, I can just wake up Kevin.

5) Do nice things for myself on a routine basis. ENOUGH SAID if I have not already been doing this…do MORE of this.

6) Experts often say “Don’t make any major changes in your life during this time, like selling the house or moving to another city or state.” As an Expat, THIS IS THE TIME MOST OF US MOVE because we have stayed trying to get that last child out of High School and the company was kind enough to let us stay. Now it is time to move on.  In many ways this is great.  Few children want to come home to a ‘home’ they have never lived in.  Perhaps this means they will want to find that holiday job or summer job and start becoming a productive member of society instead of my couch potato in a new location.

7) If at all possible do not have/get another baby. That would give me 18 more years before I can once again feel this ‘bad’ about letting go. Find a friend with a baby and offer to rock it one afternoon, then run like hell, so I don’t have to change the diaper or hear the baby cry!

Expat Empty Nest Syndrome is a time to thrive!

I am sure some of my expat friends who have already hit this transition in life and have succeeded will have great words of wisdom.  Please add your comments about what you did during this time in your life.

Notes:

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/walkn/4858954172/

If you want a great article on real self-help for this, check out this article by John Tsilimparis

On a real personal note:  I still miss Jackie every day and I am sure my time away from Grant will be spent thinking about him.

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