Ask Dr. Joy: Empty nesters lose more than their child

By WEEK Producer

September 11, 2013 Updated Sep 11, 2013 at 7:40 PM CDT

It’s that time of the year, when many parents are facing their first experience with being empty nesters. 

Most nesters believed they would love this epic time in their lives, but when their son or daughter leaves for college, is there anything left in the relationship between husband and wife. 

Tonight we will look at this critical relational period.

• Studies show that in 1990 fewer than 1 out of 10 individuals were divorced at age 50 and above

• 20 years later, that number has jumped to 1 out of 4 . 


How do these divorce rates relate to empty nesters?

• Couples have grown in different ways and different paths in those 18 years, and without the children around, the couple may not have much in common. (ships in the night)

• Many couples feel like they are waking up with a stranger after their child goes to school and without the role of mother or father they feel lost.

• Intimacy for many couples has decreased to dramatic levels and many couples feel withdrawn and isolated after their son or daughter goes away to college.

• Focus of the couple was on the children, and now life seems empty and without purpose.


What are some tips for weathering this transitional period and keeping your relationship strong?

• Prevention:  Nurture each other’s interests.  Make sure you are a part of their world, and you’ll maintain common bonds.

• Plan:  Parents make strategic plans for saving money for college and other important life decisions around their children, but plan early for your future together (finances, trips, experiences, goals).

• Bonds:  Insure you won’t feel like strangers by maintaining “us” time with your partner every week.  Without that bond you will feel like a stranger with the one you loved.

• Share feelings:  This is a difficult time for many parents, make sure you open up and discuss your feelings and that openness will bring you closer as a couple.

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