Let’s face reality. It’s never easy to send a child away to college or pack up a child as they move out into a place of their own. This fall marks a new chapter in the lives of many fathers, mothers, grandparents, and step-parents as their children leave the comfort of their home and go to college or move out completely. Although it is never easy to send a child off on their own, it is especially hard if your packing up your final child and sending them off to college, the military, or to live on their own. Here are a few helpful suggestions to make the transition to an empty nest even easier.
1) Be open and flexible about how you plan to move forward.
One of the most difficult things in this situation is down playing the situation or pretending it doesn’t exist. Everything changed drastically when your first child entered was born, and it changes drastically again when your last child moves out. Many families have children living in their home for 20+ years, to return home from dropping your child off at school to an empty nest can be a bit of a shock. However, openness and flexibility are two of the biggest things couples need in moving forward.
Parents need to be open with each other about they will move forward. All the silence, free time, and awkwardness can seem a bit daunting at first. Ignoring the issue won’t make it go away. So, take some time to adjust and think about how you envision the next steps of your life and marriage. Be open and and considerate of your spouse’s views and ideas. But, don’t dwell on the emptiness or think your life is over since your last child just moved out.
Consider picking up a new hobby, volunteering for a local non-profit, adopting a pet, or even taking a trip together. Those things won’t replace the fact that the home doesn’t have children living in it on a regular basis, but it will make the transition easier. Always remember that people move through change at different paces. It is best to discuss openly and honestly with your spouse about how each other is doing in transitioning to this new stage of life.
2) Remember that you always will be their parents.
It’s very easy to live by the principle, “Out of sight, out of mind.” But, as parents that’s never a good idea. Even when you’re final child leaves the nest, you’re still parents. There will be plenty of advice that still needs to be given, a few times when they’ll need to be bailed out of a jam, and they may even ask to be sent a check or two in the mail. Let your children be independent, but don’t set up a giant pool table in their room just yet. Your role as a parent isn’t through it’s just changed.
One very important thing to remember is that sometimes kids need to fail. It can be so very tempting to bail out your child after they’ve made a foolish decision, but that might not always be the best thing. If mommy or daddy always bails them out after each mistake, then the child will never learn one of life’s most valuable skills: how to make wise decisions. Please don’t ignore your child in times of need but also don’t rush to their aid every time they make a mistake.
3) Start preparing before your nest is empty.
Sincere apologies for all of those reading this article, who are saying to themselves, “Well, it’s too late to do that!” One of the most important things to remember is that while it is good to invest time, energy, and commitment into one’s children, it is very easy to over do it and totally forget about your marriage, interests, and even friends. Many, many parents invest all their time, energy, and resources into their kids, and once the last one leaves the house they have no idea what to do! Please do your best to live a balanced family life. Go out on a date night with your spouse. Don’t feel bad watching the big game at your co-worker’s home. On occasion have a girl’s weekend for yourself and your other mom friends. Develop a new hobby. Sign-up for a class. Try something new. But, make sure you don’t forget your marriage or your family. The nest will be empty one day, it’s a good thing for your children to grow-up, become responsible adults, and have their own place. That means as parents you’ve succeeded! The day will be upon every parent sooner or later. Start preparing for it now.