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Dad Self Help Advice on Empty Nesting

Written by Jane Brooks

The kids are grown and leaving the roost. This is a story about how their dads feel. 

The last child kid has flown the coop. What now? Ambivalence.

 
Advice
Empty nesting lets parents and kids re-calibrate their relationships.
Parents get to view their child as an adult and have the opportunity to create a new relationship.
Empty nesters now have time to travel and pursue their own interests.
Sometimes fathers are happy to have their wives to themselves again.
Relationships change. This is an opportunity for exploration and growth. 
 
At least, that's what parents at this milestone generally acknowledge. While mothers are fairly outspoken about their mixed emotions when the kids leave home, fathers tend to be less vocal. But what of the dads who spent countless hours pitching softballs and making ponytails? How does a dad feel when his last child leaves?

When younger son Zach left for college, Philadelphian Ron Burd, a 53-year-old CEO, dropped his football season tickets. "When the boys were home, we almost never missed a game," says a wistful Burd, who attended only two games, sans children, this past season.

Fathers, like Burd, who have developed a solid, healthy relationship with children, are likely to miss them greatly. But if the relationship between a father and his children, particularly between father and son, is strained, the father's reaction may be quite different.

Richard Shapiro, a psychotherapist in Wynnewood, Pa., explains, "Most of the men I see dealing with empty nest-related issues are almost happy to get rid of their sons because now they can have Mom to themselves. Daughters, on the other hand, aren't perceived as rivals."

Shapiro explains that it's not uncommon for a man to feel abandoned by his wife when children are born. "It's usually not conscious and doesn't mean the feeling is abnormal but unresolved jealousy can cause friction in a family for years. It often surfaces when the last child leaves."

The obvious advantage to empty nesting is more time for the parents to be a couple. Less obvious is the opportunity to be apart.

Shapiro, himself an empty nester, says that he and his wife, a writer, are now busier than ever with their careers because there is less distraction. They find themselves spending more time pursuing individual interests which was difficult to do when they were juggling parenting and work.

Travel, is also a favorite pastime for empty nesters with both time and money. Plans are likely to include a visit to adult children.

Can empty nesting lead to improved parent/child relationships?

"That's what we hope for," says Shapiro. "Once the children leave, it gives us the opportunity to relate to them as adults."

As Burd expresses it, "When children enter the world, it's exhilarating. Raising them is rewarding. But seeing them go off on their own is extremely satisfying."

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