Health Watch -- Clearing the Nest

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.



Does your home feel a little too empty now?

When children go off to college, many parents are left with an empty nest. While this is an exciting stage of life, the newly empty home can take time to adjust to. Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say some parents have more trouble than others adjusting to this change in their lives.

Dr. Madhukar Trivedi, a UT Southwestern psychiatrist, says empty nest syndrome is a feeling of loss, sadness and bewilderment coming from the last child leaving home. For some people, this can cause a bad case of the blues. It can even lead to clinical depression.

An empty nest doesn't have to be a sad home. This can be a good opportunity for parents to re-establish their relationship with each other as adults and spouses rather than as parents. You can also fill the empty nest by exploring new activities and interests. While you may miss your children, this may also be your chance to try a new sport, take a class, get into volunteer work in your community, learn a new language, travel or take up a musical instrument. After all those years of parenting, you've earned the right to take some time for yourself. Remember that your children are probably enjoying their new lives as well.

If the sad feelings from an empty nest don't ease up after a few months and aren't helped by finding new activities, you should talk to your doctor or another health-care professional. You may be suffering from clinical depression, which needs to be treated.

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Oct. 2004

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