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In the past year, many parents had the unexpected experience of their adult children moving back in with them due to various pandemic-related issues such as university switching to online courses, job loss, or financial stress. According to a recent one Pew Research Center survey, 52% of young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 lived with their parents in July 2020. This is the highest measured percentage since the beginning of the measurement, with the second highest recorded towards the end of the Great Depression. The nest, once empty, was full again.

Now that everything is opening up again, many parents are dealing with their children moving out again, leading to a second round of Empty Nest Syndrome. For many parents, this can lead to feelings of grief and loss, as well as a reassessment of their own identities outside of their parental roles. And in this special moment these feelings mix with the many other stressors of the past 18 months.

“There’s just more susceptibility to COVID,” said Natalie Caine, whose organization, Life is changing, supports parents in transitional situations, such as when their children move out.

When adult children move out and then move in again

“As a family, we have a certain pattern, a way of life that becomes a little more comfortable,” he said Jerrold Shapiro, Professor of Clinical Psychology at Santa Clara University and author of the book Find meaning, face fears: Live mid-life full time and retire. “Then there is a shift where you suddenly move from a system in which the children are the focus, in which the parents are only with each other. That requires a lot of adjustment. ”

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In the case of adult children who move back in and then move out, this has created a new tension as parents first had to deal with a new set of household rules and expectations of how their adult children should live together. Even if the parent-child relationship is healthy, moving back an adult child can be stressful.

“When kids leave the house you adjust, you create a new system, they come back and it takes another set of adjustments, and it’s a complicated adjustment because when children come back they are no longer small” said Shapiro. When their children leave, the parents have to adjust again. “Each of these adjustments makes us fear the unknown,” Shapiro said.

Re-evaluate your goals and dreams

“It’s very healthy to face fears of the unknown in reasonable, moderate chunks,” said Shapiro. This may include trying out new hobbies, shifting gears in your career, as well as spending extra time with your partner to re-establish a relationship outside of the parental role.

As parents struggle with Void Nest Syndrome, it is important to be patient and remember that adjustment takes time. “It’s incredibly difficult to make these adjustments,” Shapiro said. “If you are preparing for someone moving in and out of your house, then moving in and out, these adjustments need to be made all the time.”

The main challenge that comes with moving children out is the process of re-establishing their identity outside of their role as parents. “Parents struggle with ‘what’s my role?'” Caine said.

Moving from the busy schedule of full-time parenting to a quieter, emptier home can be a shocking shock – even if it’s the second time you’ve moved out. For many parents, this is a time to rely on their support network, which includes friends and family, and it is a good time to reassess some of their own goals and dreams.

“Enjoy dreaming about something you’ve never done before that you might want to do,” Caine said. “You have to start having your dream list and your reality list.”

For some, this could mean a new invention in their careers; for others, it could be the entry into health and fitness or a new hobby. This dream list will look different for everyone, but it is important to realize what is important to you, rather than on some of the stereotypical activities that others might expect.

Maintain open communication with your children

Just because your kids moved out doesn’t mean you stop being parents. “Worrying about kids after they leave college doesn’t diminish much,” Shapiro said. This is the time to hope that you have taught your children well enough and that the stupid, risky things they inevitably do won’t harm them, at least not permanently. In a world with COVID-19, it also means you need to worry about staying healthy.

As Caine points out, it is important to let your children know that everyone makes mistakes, including you, and that you are still there for them when they do, whether or not they learn from the experience.

“Don’t be the teacher, be the sensitive person,” Caine said. If you put too much emphasis on learning from your mistakes, as she points out, it will confuse the children and make them believe that if they don’t learn something, you may not be there for them. “What you really want to say is, ‘Mistakes happen and we’re here for you. Period ‘”said Caine.