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Dr. Shannon Jarrott shares her “empty nester” story with The Lantern

Dr. Shannon Jarrott shares her “empty nester” story with The Lantern

September 7, 2023

Replenishing the nest: How parents can cope with their newly hollow household

With the shutting of a car trunk and the unpacking of a box, parents go from leading brimming households to occupying empty nests in what may feel like a matter of moments.

The term “empty nester,” used to describe parents whose children have grown up and left home, is one many Ohio State parents may find themselves relating to since dropping their kids off at college. But Shannon Jarrott, an Ohio State professor of social work, said not all empty nesters cope with their newfound situation in the same way, and scientific evidence suggests a parent’s sense of identity plays a large role in this distinction.

“If a parent is enmeshed with the child in a way that all of their social ties and all of their free time and leisure is connected to activities that were involved with the child, that means they may have a harder time dealing with that separation,” Jarrott said.

Jarrott, a trained gerontologist — or specialist in adult development and aging — said on the other hand, parents who have maintained an identity separate from their child when they lived at home should have an easier adjustment. Nevertheless, she said it’s common for most parents to feel a complex range of emotions with their children’s departure.

“You can have both positive feelings and responses to launching your child out of the nest and still have moments where you feel like you’re at a loss of what to do,” Jarrott said.

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