Since kids see their parents as peers when they reach adulthood, empty nest syndrome actually does good for parents says a study.
Empty nest syndrome is a general feeling of loneliness that parents/other guardian relatives may feel when one or more of their children leave home. While more common in women, it can happen to both sexes.
According to Christine Proulx, assistant professor of human development and family studies in the College of Human Environmental Sciences, as children reach adulthood, the parent-child relationship changes as parents learn to adapt to newly independent children.
"As children age, direct care taking and influence diminish, and children are often seen by their parents as peers with whom they are have continuing relationships," said Proulx.
"Although our between-families results suggest these patterns of change and continuity differ by parent and child gender, our within-family analyses suggest important similarities among mothers and fathers within the same family," she added.
The study interviewed 142 sets of parents with firstborn young adult sons and daughters. Of most concern to the parents in the study were firstborns' independence, time spent together and role patterns.
The study found that generally fathers and mothers reported similar changes in the parent-child relationship during their child's movements into young adulthood.
Both fathers and mothers reported differences in independence/maturity of the child, closeness/openness in the relationship, contact/time spent together and changes in role pattern.
Another change reported by parents was relating more like peers and having more adult-like interactions with their young adult child than in prior years. Other parents reported acting more like a mentor and giving advice to their children rather than demands.
Some of the things that remained the same in the parent-child relationship were providing financial assistance and continuing to be a mentor to their young adult child. Few parents in the study reported changes in emotional support to the children.
"The within-family analysis suggests that mothers and fathers in the same families in our study rarely reported divergent experiences with their young adult sons and daughters," said Proulx.
"Overwhelmingly, the examination of mothers' and fathers' responses revealed similarities in mothers' and fathers' experiences as parents to their young adult child," she added.