How do I cope with empty nest syndrome? [Ask Dr. Drew]

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I was a teen mom at 19. I raised my two boys pretty much on my own after escaping a ten year abusive relationship. As proud as I am that I raised two independent young men who are chasing their dreams, I'm also struggling deeply with feeling lost. How do I cope with empty nest syndrome?

Asked by J. W.

Dr. Drew’s Answer

I can imagine that this must be very difficult for you. These boys have literally been your life, and your primary relationships. However, as a parent you can not make your children responsible for your happiness and wellbeing. You must begin to, if you will, parent yourself.

Start with the basics: be sure your sleep hygiene and duration is adequate, move and get exercise, be sure your diet is appropriate, and spend some time every day in some meditative activity. This does not necessarily mean formal meditation but more mindful self care. It could be listening to music or even reading poetry. Then spend time with people who care about you; and if you have neglected those sorts of relationships (i.e. friendships) work to develop them.

Finally once you have this foundation you can consider seeking out romantic partners. You don’t want to be looking for a life preserver so much as someone with whom to share intimacy; something you have been pouring in to your sons. It is now time to cut them free and hopefully you can find joy in their progress in the world.

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