As humans we are so set in our ways, and when you become a parent this becomes more apparent, adapting and developing a new routine to care not just for yourself but for your growing family. We become conditioned to do the laundry, the food shopping, the cleaning etc on particular days and Sunday tea time onwards becomes a time parents are getting ready for the week ahead. But all that changes when your child heads off to pastures new, they kinda need you but don't really need you.  So what do you do?

Gillian McMichael, Transformational Wellness Coach and author

Gillian McMichael, Transformational Wellness Coach and author

Here, transformational wellness coach Gillian McMichael shares her insight into the concept of empty nest syndrome, the common symptoms and offers her tips to guide you back to your true self through this period of transition. 

What is empty nest syndrome

Empty nest syndrome is the name used to describe the grief and loneliness that parents can feel when their children leave home. A study from The Independent shows that  “47% of British parents whose children have just started university are already fretting about having an empty nest”.

Symptoms of empty nest syndrome


There are 2 main reactions when your children leave home: 

  1. You go mental – let your younger self go a bit wild for a few weeks or
  2. You become sad – miss your child and feel completely lost either way you will eventually feel like something is missing!

Even though statistics show that 1 in 3 couples separate when they are left in an empty nest, Gillian McMicheal gives tips on how to defy this statistic and flourish during these difficult times, making your relationship with yourself and your partner better than ever! 

Here are key tips on how to embrace this transition period: 

Change how you spend your time – make plans, don't keep the same routines, if it's just you and your partner there is no need for rigid timetables of when you should come home, so learn to inject a little spontaneity back into your life. “94% of parents admit they are not quite ready for the enforced peace and quiet”, but now is your time to embrace it and thrive in the new environment.

RE-Engage in hobbies or things you enjoyed when younger – you and your partner will not have been together all the time, the kids would have filled the space of gaps you had, so now is the time to be active and explore ways of how you wish to spend the spare time that you will have. Be careful not to fill it with work or chores, make some positive choices about hobbies, or things that interest you and go and do them. 

Eat well – don’t comfort eat – it’s easy to pile on the pounds when you are missing your child.  The sense of loss can mean we reach for the sweet treats.  Instead, be thoughtful about what you want to eat, this is the time you can spice up your meal plan and make dinner time a lovely experience for you and or your partner.  Set the table, light the candles, get the music on and chat over dinner, to share your news from the day.  We all know how important it is to sit down at a table and eat dinner so make it special every day, even if it's beans on toast!

Declutter & re-organize your home – this does not mean turn your child’s bedroom into a home gym or man cave, but you can now play around with how you want your home to look and feel.  A fresh palate of colour or new home accessories can make a big difference, so can a good clear out.

Get intimate… Yes, when was the last time you didn't have to worry about making a noise in the bedroom?  Most of us put intimacy on the back burner and sometimes it can feel odd to have the freedom of intimacy, this can paralyse us into not doing anything, BIG WARNING here.  The last thing you want is just be friends with your partner, you both still have needs and wants so don't forget to re-acquaint yourself.  Start off by going on dates mid-week if you can afford it; the cinema, dinner, a drink after work. A study found that an astounding “63% of people became closer with their spouse when they had an empty nest, and 58% said they were more intimate”. All this is possible, then see how things go… spontaneity is essential when it comes to intimacy and it will take one of you to make the move if there's been a cold front in the intimacy area. 

The key thing to remember is that you are more than a parent, you’ve done a great job to get your kids out of the house and to independence.  You’ve done well.  Now this is your time to re-discover who you are beyond the role of a parent, you will always be a parent but don't let that role define you.  You are more than that, so give yourself permission to have fun exploring and re-igniting your passions.

Gillian McMichael, Transformational Wellness Coach, founder of Full Circle Global and author of Coming Home: A Guide to Being Your True Self


by for
find me on and follow me on

Tagged in