'Empty nest syndrome' when kids leave for university 'can wreck marriage'

Are your kids leaving home next month?
Are your kids leaving home next month?

Empty Nest Syndrome - when grown up kids leave home to go to university - can wreck the marriage of long-suffering parents.

Many parents may be looking to the autumn when thousands of students head off to university after receiving their A-level results last week.

But family lawyers say many marriages crumble when the children leave home.

Lyn Ayrton, of Lake Legal, says Empty Nest Syndrome leads to a seasonal spike in divorce cases as couples struggle to adjust to life once their teens head off to study.

She said: "Preparing to start university for the first time is exciting for teenagers, but can be nerve-wracking for parents.

"Not only may they be worried about how their child will cope living away from home, but they may be equally concerned about how they'll cope without seeing their child every day.

"However, the strain it can put on marital relationships can be the real bombshell."

Masked vulnerabilities

Ms Ayrton said that an empty nest can "expose vulnerabilities" in marriages and partnerships which may have been masked for years.

She said: "When the last child leaves home it sometimes feels as if your life has been turned upside down.

"Years of focusing on the needs of the family, leaving little space or time for the two of you as a couple, can have masked just how much a couple have drifted apart.

"Parents experience empty nest syndrome in different ways, but feelings of loss or lack of purpose are common and can have an enormous impact on partner relationships.

"Couples whose children are planning to go to university or move out to live on their own, need to recognise the potential issues early on."

Reconnection ‘essential’

She said reconnecting quickly with a spouse or partner can be critical to ensure relationship survival.

Ms Ayrton added: "The Empty Nest Syndrome is not as bad as it is made out to be.

"After a tough first year or so, many couples rediscover 'life after parenting' as a time of pleasure and enjoying each other's company.

"By taking a little time to reconnect the relationship can actually grow in strength."

Lost touch

She has compiled a series of suggestions to support couples who feel they've lost touch with each other designed to help cope with the new phase of their relationship.

Ms Ayrton said: "Firstly, tell your partner how you feel.

"Carrying on when you are feeling miserable without the children around prevents your partner from offering the comfort actually needed.

"Think of a leisure pursuit you enjoyed when you first got together and try to re-initiate this. Even if you're not as active as in the past, it can be fun trying out a once favourite shared pursuit or discovering a new one.

"Do some things you have always wanted to but previously never had the time or money for as the children grew up. Draw up a bucket list together."