By Bev and Phil Haas
Our kids are two and a half years apart. The youngest just left for college. If she’s anything like her older brother, we’re entering the proverbial empty nest. My husband and I are dealing with lots of emotions, ranging from the joy of seeing them grow up to the sadness of letting them go. We’re looking for some words of encouragement as we enter this new stage.
00When teaching parenting classes, we always ask parents about their end goal. We get lots of similar responses that they hope will describe their grown kids: responsible, healthy, Christlike, loving, giving, and independent. Seeing our parenting goals become a reality brings joy, but, as you know, it doesn’t make letting go any easier.
Your kids probably couldn’t be more exited about their newfound freedom. That doesn’t mean they won’t miss home from time to time; but they see a new chapter of life opening up in front of them. They are facing forward. Those are the first words of encouragement we want to share with you—face forward. Look ahead to the next stage of life that is before you. After all, it’s also a new start for you two as parents and as a couple!
Dealing with the Emotions
OK, Bev and I have been through this so we realize that along with the upside of this new stage—like having extra time on your hands—there’s also a downside. The downside includes a mixture of emotions. All of a sudden the house feels empty. If you’re not careful your emotions can drag you down into the “my kids are gone” blahs. We want to look at a couple of those emotions and offer some more words of encouragement.
Some parents feel guilty about their newfound freedom. For 18 years you’ve probably considered the needs of your kids above your own. Now you find yourself feeling guilty about picking up that book that’s been calling your name or finishing that project in the backyard. You’ve sacrificed for your kids, and now you have more time to consider your needs. There’s nothing wrong with caring for yourself the same way you care for others. More words of encouragement for this new stage of life are enjoy yourself.
Another mixed emotion has to do with purpose. When children come along our identity and purpose includes being a parent. When your child leaves, you may feel like you’re losing part of who you are. So what’s a parent to do? Our next words of encouragement provide a simple answer to this question—ask God.
Pray and ask God to give you a newfound sense of purpose in your life. Don’t worry if the answer doesn’t come right away. God may be saying you first need some time to renew your energy or create more margin in your life. In time God will help you see his purpose for you in this next stage of life.
These are not the only emotions that you’ll encounter. With that in mind we encourage you to reach out to other parents who are experiencing the same empty nest.
Continuing a Relationship
During this time you might feel as if your parenting years are behind you. That statement couldn’t be further from the truth. Yes, you are done with many of the tasks that you had become accustomed to doing as a parent, and your role has changed. But your relationship with your emerging adult kids can continue to develop. So our final words of encouragement are stay close.
Even when your kids are far away, there are actions you can take to keep the relationship growing, such as praying for one another. Prayer brings us closer to God and closer to one another. Continue praying for God’s protection and his blessing upon your kids. We like to share prayer requests with our kids. On our bathroom mirror is a list of prayer requests from our kids. This keeps us informed about what’s happening in their lives.
In addition to communicating with God, communicate with your kids. There are countless ways to keep in touch by utilizing today’s technology. We love to use FaceTime with our son and grandson who live across the country and with our daughter and other grandson who live less than 15 minutes away.
In Philippians 3:13 Paul shared wisdom he had picked up from his various journeys in life. He wrote about “straining toward what is ahead.” That is also good advice for parents when their kids leave home!
Send your questions about family life to Phil and Bev Haas in care of The Lookout, 8805 Governor’s Hill Drive, Suite 400, Cincinnati, OH 45249, email@example.com. We regret that personal replies are not always possible. Phil and Bev Haas are involved in education and family ministry in Cincinnati, Ohio. They are the parents of two children and they have two grandsons.