Late September can be traumatic for some of Britain’s teenagers as they head off to university for the first time, what with living on your own and fending for yourself and all that. It’s not just these gilded youths, however, who face a difficult few weeks. Spare a thought for those of us who are left behind, the parents. Seeing our precious babies head out into the big wide world, we are prone to a painful mental disorder psychologists call Empty Nest Syndrome. We can suffer feelings of loss, longing and uselessness now our sons and daughters are no longer there to be cared for. We can be found sitting on the empty bed of the teenager in question, having a little cry. Extreme cases see people sobbing uncontrollably and not wanting to mix with friends or go to work. At this point we are advised to seek help.
And this isn’t all. I have discovered that some parents of freshman students are vulnerable to a much lesser known, but just as significant, mental disorder called Reverse Empty Nest Syndrome, or RENS. In contrast to Empty Nest Syndrome, sufferers of RENS are gripped by alarming feelings of contentment, satisfaction and even guilty glee upon the departure of their teenager. They find it all too easy to come to terms with a cleaner house, lower food bills and more peace and quiet. RENS sufferers can be found sitting on the empty bed of their son or daughter, having a little smile. Extreme cases see parents laughing uncontrollably and actually wanting to mix with friends and go to work. At this point we are advised to seek alcohol.