Don’t fall foul of empty nest syndrome says family lawyer


As millions of teens make preparations to embark on university courses away from home, a family lawyer is advising couples of the best ways to ensure their relationship survives when their children have flown the nest.

Lyn Ayrton of Lake Legal says incidences of ‘empty nest syndrome’ lead to a seasonal spike in divorce cases as couples struggle to adjust to life once their teens head off to study.

Commented Lyn: “Preparing to start university for the first time is exciting for teenagers, but can be nerve-wracking for parents. Not only may they be worried about how their child will cope living away from home, but they may be equally concerned about how they’ll cope without seeing their child every day. However, the strain it can put on marital relationships can be the real bombshell.”

Lyn believes that an empty nest can expose vulnerabilities in marriages and partnerships which may have been masked for many years, adding: “When the last child leaves home it sometimes feels as if your life has been turned upside down. Years of focusing on the needs of the family, leaving little space or time for the two of you as a couple, can have masked just how much a couple have drifted apart’.

“Parents experience empty nest syndrome in different ways, but feelings of loss or lack of purpose are common and can have an enormous impact on partner relationships. Couples whose children are planning to go to university or move out to live on their own, need to recognise the potential issues early on.”

According to Lyn, reconnecting quickly with a spouse or partner can be critical to ensure relationship survival: “The empty nest syndrome is not as bad as it is made out to be. After a tough first year or so, many couples rediscover ‘life after parenting’ as a time of pleasure and enjoying each other’s company. By taking a little time to reconnect the relationship can actually grow in strength.”

Lake Legal has compiled a series of suggestions to support couples who feel they’ve lost touch with each other designed to help cope with this phase of their relationship:

– Firstly, tell your partner how you feel. Carrying on when you are feeling miserable without the children around prevents your partner from offering the comfort actually needed.

– Think of a leisure pursuit you enjoyed when you first got together and try to re-initiate this. Even if you’re not as active as in the past, it can be fun trying out a once favourite shared pursuit or discovering a new one.

– Do some things you have always wanted to but previously never had the time or money for as the children grew up. Draw up a bucket list together.

Lake Legal operates nationally from offices in Leeds and Manchester. It was named ‘Family Law Firm of the Year’ in the Yorkshire Legal Awards and has earned recognition in the top tier of firms in both Chambers & Partners and the Legal 500.


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