I am writing this for parents who are transitioning into empty nesters.
I have had quite a few friends lately that are in a new phase of transitioning with their young adult sons and daughters moving out of the family home. Some are going away to school, others are living with friends or family, one friend has a daughter that got married, and an older child just decided it was time to finally live on his own. This can be a very emotional time with a range of unique feelings for many parents especially mothers who this was their primary vocation for a few decades. I have experienced this a few times with our five children and want to share a few things that I have done that have assisted me to transition well. One of the first and foremost things that you have to do is a mental acceptance of the timing of what is happening. Each son or daughter has their own timetable for transitioning and comparing them to another one of your young adult children’s experience or your expectations may not be helpful.
“Bird parents, like many human mothers and fathers, often struggle to become empty nesters. But as new research suggests, the tension that arises between baby birds who don’t want to leave the nest and parents who would very much like them out ultimately results in an ideal departure time that boosts survival rates.” New research published today in Science Advances
Recently we had a dove nest in one of our plant holders in our front yard and we received a message when one of the baby birds had grown and was not fully ready to fly away just yet. We would come out and see it hanging out on our front porch, occasionally the mother bird would fly back to encourage it to continue making small trips to the house beside us. Both my husband and I made a comment that sometimes the young grown bird isn’t ready to leave just yet and needs assistance and release from the parents to make sure that it matures enough to survive the dangers that this world presents to them.
Here are some things that I have implemented to help my husband and myself to accept, process and build new healthy relationships with our independent, interdependent young adult sons and daughters. This will also help if you are suffering from symptoms of empty nest syndrome which can include sadness, depression, loss of purpose, and loneliness. I recommend starting to do these things before your young adult is actually moving out.
- Accept your role as a parent of a young adult being
- Seek out mutual ways to remain close
- Trust the work that you have done
- Bless and pray for them daily and commit them into God’s care
- Send texts telling them how proud you are of them.
- Find the positive in the transition and keep reminding yourself daily
- Know that what they don’t know they can learn
- Keep the doors open- some come back for a season
- Give them permission to need you- keep reminding them that you are there
- Transition your role from decision-maker into more of a coach/consultant
- Daily connect with your children – text, phone, send voice messages, mail care pkg.
- Create valid helpful reasons to visit- cleaning, grocery, decorating
- Have a healthy dialogue with them when they are making lifestyle choices
- Family Night at the family home or at their new home – Taco Tuesdays
- Plan to gather together for birthday celebrations, holidays, vacationing together
- Assist your children to do tasks they may have never done before- get a birth certificate, taxes, accounting/budgeting, decorating,
This process can present an exciting new season for married couples if we allow it to be a season of transition and new growth. Take this time to reassess your own life and focus on your present and future choices. If your identity was mainly in the rearing of your children this can be a new season for you to reinvent yourself! Take the time to reshape your marriage, get a new career, and become a better parent of young adult children and eventually possibly grandparents.
Other things you can do for yourself personally
- Get a life of your own and focus on it.
- Explore your future- planning with your spouse
- Take time to process and memorialize your memories
- Volunteer to help others in need
- Be aware of other life transitions occurring that may add to this- menopause, moving etc…
- Make friends that you can plan events with
- Share your feelings and experiences with another mature empty nester
- Enjoy quality time with your spouse
- Do all the things you complained about not having time to do when you had children; travel, meditation, hobbies,
- Be excited about Life!!!!
My prayer will be that you will transition well during this season of change. You are starting on an exciting journey into tomorrow and you need to process the feelings of loss, control, uncertainty, and even a bit of helplessness and remember that the Source/God loaned you this being to allow it to fly out of the nest and into the world to create a world that will always be an extension of the amazing things you have imparted to this grown-up version of the baby bird you once had. The nest may be empty but you are now full and the birds are flying!