Empty Nest and Problem Gambling Posted On

As the summer comes to a close, youth may be leaving the home.  For many parents this is a time their youth are going off to college, moving to start a new job, or getting their own place to start a family.  Whatever the reason, some parents may struggle with empty nest syndrome, which can lead to problem gambling. 

Empty Nest Syndrome

Although not a clinical condition, our society has accepted the term empty nest syndrome.  Empty nest syndrome refers to the loneliness and grief some parents go through when their youth leave the home.  For many, this is a time of great change, and change can be difficult.

Activities to support youth take up a lot of time and energy up until the day they move out.  Some activities include helping with time management like getting up for school, making their meals, supporting their emotional needs by listening and offering guidance, and driving them around town from sports to clubs.  Even during all these day to day activities, there was additional stress as new things come up, such as prepping for a driving test, prepping them for new jobs, and helping youth determine what they want to do after high school. 

Plus, what about all of the social interaction as their friends ran through.  Your home may have been one of their “spots” to spend time.  You may be feeling the loss of more than just your own youth, but their group of friends, too.  The joy and excitement of welcoming all these people to your home may come to a sudden halt.

The Empty Nest

Now your youth are moving on to their next phase in life.  Whether that phase be education, career, family, or a mix of these and more, the youth are out of the house.  Even with a loving partner, the drastic change may seem too much and too sudden for some parents. 

With youth gone, there’s a sudden realization of so much extra time, more silence, solitude, and drastically less to do around the house.  Cooking less, cleaning less, doing less laundry, and simply not being needed as much can be an overwhelming change for some parents.

Empty Nest and Problem Gambling

This life change of having and empty nest forces parents to make choices. While some make healthy choices, some turn to risky behaviors like gambling.  Gambling is a risky choice for people going through a life change because of its addictive qualities.  When gambling, people experience an increase of dopamine, the hormone that makes the brain feel happy.  This excitement for someone who feels unhappy can feel overwhelmingly good and lead to problem gambling. 

Problem gambling refers to any time gambling causes problems in someone’s life.  These problems can include spending too much time or money gambling, lying to loved ones about gambling and damaging relationships, and changes in personality, sleep and eating habits.  Those who choose to deal with stress by gambling may find much more stress with increasing relationship, finance and health problems.  Problem gambling can become a vicious cycle as someone tries to gamble to feel better while their gambling behaviors cause more problemsin their lives.

A Healthy Outlook

Rather than focusing on what is missing and the grief associated with this time of change, this can be an amazing time for the parent.  While being a parent to youth, you may have made sacrifices to save time to support your youth.  Now is the time to start doing things for you.  This can be an amazing time of rebirth, a time to redefine the meaning of your life, and a time to take charge toward whatever goals you may have!

Healthy Life Choices

Career Aspirations.  Do you have unfulfilled career aspirations?  This is your moment!  If you were a stay-at-home parent, this could be your opportunity to go back to school for a specific career.  You are worth the time, just like you believe your youth is.  If you already have the degree you need, go out and get that job, or better position, you desire.  Now you have the time to dedicate towards your career, so go for it!

Travel.  Are there places you wish to visit that you’ve put off?  Get those places off your bucket list and get them on you calendar! If you don’t have the finances to do it yet, go back to career aspirations and make it happen.  This is your time, it’s your life, and you can make it all happen! 

Personal Health.  Do you wish to be healthier?  You can start your own garden or join a fitness club.  Whether you live in an urban or rural area, people are making gardens and growing their own produce.  Between gaining essential minerals from soil through their feet and hands, feeling pride from their bounty, and the nutrition from eating their product, a garden can be a great way to get healthier.  It can also be a great way to fuel a new fitness club, which could be a gym or a group like a cycling club.  Clubs help motivate people, build friendships, and can offer a plethora of health benefits.

Helping Others.  Maybe helping others has been on your list of things to do.  Sacrificing time and effort for others can be very fulfilling. Volunteering at a soup kitchen, a recovery center, or at a local Habitat For Humanity can change the lives of others. You can support families going through hard times by getting certified as a foster parent.  Or you can help loved ones by babysitting their little ones. Either way, sacrificing your time to help others can be a very fulfilling way to move through feelings of grief from an empty nest.

Problem Gambling Support

The changes that an empty nest brings can be good changes or bad changes. If you or a loved one is showing signs of struggling with problem gambling, there is help.  In New York State, you can reach out to your local Problem Gambling Resource Center (PGRC) by visiting NYProblemGamblingHELP.org.  Here you’re given ways to reach out to your local PGRC, which is staffed by amazing professionals eager to help.  They offer educational resources and can connecting you or your loved one to a specialized treatment provider.  Their services are for those struggling with problem gambling, and for loved ones affected by someone’s gambling.  Either way, they are here to help.

As youth leave your home, we hope this change brings about amazing new opportunities in your life.  We hope your youth find success in all they strive to do.  If anyone begins struggling with problem gambling along the way, we’re here to help you and your family.