Research Paper By Hagit Hoffman
(Life Coach, UNITED STATES)
Defining The Empty Nest
The phase of the adult life cycle that occurs when the children are grown and no longer living at home is commonly termed “the Empty Nest.” I chose this topic as I am experiencing it now in my life cycle as an adult. Both my children “flew the coop” and left my husband and me behind as they both married and moved to Israel. I heard much about the Syndrome, however I found myself debating with the notion that my nest is empty. When ICA requested that one of the requirements is to write a Research Paper on a subject that was pertaining to me, I chose this subject. I was sincerely interested to research further if it is a syndrome or not? And also to see how as a Life Coach, I could support my clients with this issue.
In the Journal of Counseling and Development November 1989 – an article appeared on this subject.
The Empty Nest Syndrome: Myth or Reality?
The Empty Nest Syndrome is maladaptive response to the post-parental transition (a.k.a. “empty nest”), which is stimulated by a reaction to loss. Parents, especially mothers, may experience overwhelming grief, sadness, dysphoria, and depression and have identified their role loss as a significant precipitator to this syndrome. Since they have been devoting a large number of years to the parenting role, woman in particular may be left with a major void in their daily lives. Not uncommonly, this can lead to an identity crises and concern for how one is going to fill the time previously devoted to child-rearing.
Further research was pursued to understand this syndrome in depth and examined some more evidence to support the mothers/parents who do feel the emotional changes – this particular article made it clearer even more.
Study of the life cycle has identified anywhere from five to eight stages of development. Toward the latter end of each suggested life cycle, a stage specific to the launching of children from the nest is mentioned. This stage often marks the beginning of structural and emotional changes in the makeup of the family. Family adjustment to this stage is influenced by a variety of factors most significantly the adjustment of individual family members to the arrival of this launching time. Parental adaptation to the post-parental period may range from a reluctance and /or refusal to view their children as potentially capable of leading autonomous independent lives to a time of individual and marital renewal and growth. ( Jana l. Rraup and Jane E. Myers , The Empty Nest Syndrome).
Interviewing Empty Nest Couples
Needing first hand data, a request was submitted to interview couples in the local community who just sent their last child to college. It seemed important to see if they were experiencing the anguish and helplessness often reported during this life cycle stage. The goal was hoping to get a first hand view on their Empty Nest experience.
Preparing to coach
Both couples were welcomed into the office and offered and a glass of cold water. A box of Kleenex was sitting on the coffee table next to a comfortable coach. Doors were shot and a note that stated “Coaching is in Session” was taped on the door. The clients were given an introduction on what is a Life Coach and what is the role of a coach in transitional life stages i.e. “Empty Nest.”
A review on the research paper was given along with the expectations and rules of engagement, privacy issues were emphasized to create a sense of safety and trust. The option of tapping and writing during the session was offered. A request for no “cross talk” was given, along with encouraging each participant to be present for each other, to understand and respect each others opinion and feelings – as not everyone feelings and opinions are the same. (Cross Talk is interrupting, rolling eyes when someone shares, finishing each other sentence or judging each other’s opinion and needing to criticize it or change it). A time limit was set to one hour for the first couching session with option for addition 15 to 20 minutes after the end of the hour. An offer was made to the couple as the hour concluded to see if they wanted continue for another 15 to 20 minutes. During the session, as the couple was getting more at ease, some notes where taken and the permission to tape the session was asked.
Stories that were shared *When my last child left home, it hit me hard. I had been a parent for most of my adult life and didn’t know what to do with myself. I missed having the sound of young voices filling the air and activity of kids going in and out. The first thing I did to cope was that I consented to host many people in my big home – and to provide for them easy access to the synagogue near by (as we walk to synagogue every Shabbat). Their presence helped me make the transition. But I found that I still had a void to fill.
*For 18 years we have been busy running errands for our child, school lunch boxes, succor play and swimming lessons. Now that he has gone we sit at our breakfast table and look at each other and don’t know what to talk about. I was finding that my husband and I were pulling away from each other into a state of isolation. I found myself having a hard time getting out of bed and not knowing what my days will be like. I am sad, I cry a lot and I feel that my husband does not understand me.
As the testimonies an empathetic ear was needed for the mothers who had invested many years of their lives taking care of their children and lost their own self identity in the process. As both parents were continuing to share the impression of loss did not happened over night; rather, it was a gradual loss. The kids were slowly becoming autonomous, getting their driver license and being absent from home more, they voiced their own opinions, they had their own taste in food and clothes and spent more time with friends rather then with family. Slowly they were stretching their wings and flying out of the nest.
80 – 20 Ratio Hearing and Asking Powerful Questions
It became readily apparent that being fully present, listening, reiterating and asking questions along with writing down some of the highlights of their shared intense feelings were very beneficial to the Coach/Client relationship. The atmosphere was getting more calm and trust was being developed between the interviewees and the coach. After all as a coach, it helped to experience some of the same feelings, humor and lightness was interjected as well.
Powerful questions that were asked:
- Tell me about your children when they were home?
- What are your feelings now when your kids are out of the house?
- When your child was getting his/her driver license did you continue with the same activities that you had before he/she was driving?
- What are you busy with now?
- Do you have any ambitions for self actualization?
- Is there something that you always wanted to do but the kids were getting in the way of you dreams?
- What are your shared dreams with your spouse?
- How is your relationship with your children now when they are away?