Empty Nest Syndrome Hits Home

By: Elizabeth Donatelli
By: Elizabeth Donatelli

August 29, 2005

Thousands of parents nationwide are finding more free time, less carpools to drive, and less soccer games to attend.

Susan Mantell is a mother of five and recently sent her only daughter away to college for the first time.

"It was pretty emotional. That's my baby girl," Mantell said.

She still has two boys at home, but already notices the difference.

"It's getting really quiet and stuff. It's a little change in your lifestyle and moving into a different area of [your] life," Mantel said.

Freshmen all over the country are moving to college for the first time. But what about the parents? It's been nicknamed 'empty nest syndrome,' but Mantell learned early to make a separate life for herself and her husband before the kids all leave.

"I started a business a couple years ago looking for a new adventure so when the kids start growing up and getting out of the house that I would have a life too," Mantel said.

"You can have 20 or 30 years after your careers have wound down and after your kids have grown, but the average American only spends about 10 hours of their life planning for how they're going to spend their time to remain engaged and involved in their community," said Peter Thompson Executive Director of Senior Center.

The Senior Center offers the next chapter, which helps with transitions later in life, including empty-nesting.

"We have peer coaches trained to work one-on-one. [We have] life planning seminars, either one day or five-week sessions," explained Thompson. "We also just started round table discussions for people just to come and learn from each other and share their experiences about what they're going through such as that person who is sending their last kid off to college."

With over half her kids gone, Mantell gives parents personal advice:

"You need to raise them to be more independent and move on and enjoy life," she said.

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