If you’re a parent, you’ve been there: Balancing between pride and grief when your kids don’t need you like before. When your toddler can dress or feed theirself. Or when your teen drives off with the car for the first time. Yes, the freedom is wonderful and you’re proud to see them growing up and independent. But there’s also a ping of sadness and longing for them to still need you in those basic ways.
Fast forward to college, and the balancing act is even greater. You’re proud of their motivation and excited to help shop and prepare. But then – they actually move on.
Even if you know they’ll visit for the holidays or be home for summer break, they’ve moved on in many more ways than just their piles of laundry. They’re not dependent on your time, advice, care, or comfort. You’re not the first one they call or ask or spend their time with. Even in the closest of relationships, a very abrupt vacuum suddenly emerges.
You can’t just ignore the flood of emotions. Stuffing them all inside only leaves it to be dealt with on another day. And trying to hold onto the way it used to be puts everyone in a very awkward neutral. Instead, let’s look at a few healthy ways to transition, allowing yourself and your kids to grow in new ways.
How do you not take it personally when they don’t need you?
1. First, take the spotlight off of yourself.
Nothing feeds an emotion more than thinking and talking about it. Sitting at home and imagining what would be happening if the kids were still there only makes the pain worse. There will be a time when you can have these thoughts with a smile, but for now you need to avoid focusing on the loss.
Instead, lift your eyes to see what else surrounds you. Other people. Other opportunities. Other places. Start a gratitude list each morning to remind yourself of what you have to be thankful for and look for ways to help others. These aren’t meant to replace your son or daughter, but to add to the fullness of your life. You’re more than a mom or dad. Remind yourself of this and allow yourself to keep living.
2. Next, remember the end goal.
Too often we get tunnel vision. We look at what’s immediately in front of us, or our immediate desire, and forget the bigger goal. Take some time and really think about where you want your life and relationships to be in five, ten, and twenty years.
- Do you want to be welcomed and invited into your son or daughter’s home?
- To be celebrated as a grandparent?
- To enjoy the fruit of hard decisions?
- Are there still dreams and goals you haven’t fulfilled?
- Do you see the bigger picture of what God has called you to be and do?
Don’t let temporary emotions become permanent. Set your eyes on the horizon and build for a beautiful future.
Don't let temporary emotions become permanent. #emptynestsyndrome #empowerednester Click To Tweet
3. Stop digging a grave for your relationship with your kids.
If you’ve fallen into the rut of clinging to your adult son or daughter, it may feel like you’re keeping them close. But you’re actually pushing them away – mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and, often, physically. It’s not too late to stop the downward spiral. It’s better to relinquish control and allow healing to begin than to continue the slow erosion of your relationship.
Pull back. Lean into God’s presence. Allow His Spirit to heal your heart and change how you think about parenting. Ask Him to show you how to love your kids in this season. Believe that grace can heal and the Holy Spirit can mend what would seem impossible.
4. Expect the best. They can feel it.
I know it’s hard to see your kids make mistakes and learn hard lessons. It’s tempting to jump in and catch them or correct them or protect them. But if you constantly shield them from life, they won’t know how to walk through and overcome for themselves.
Instead, believe the best. Trust the process. Cheer them on. Have faith that the journey will mature them just as it has changed you. And when they ask for advice, give it humbly, without taking over. Your faith in God and in them will strengthen their courage and empower them to make good choices.Trust the process. #emptynestsyndrome #emptynest #empowerednester Click To Tweet
Letting go of the reigns isn’t easy, but take it as a reward for all you’ve done to this point. Celebrate the milestones and set your sights on the treasures found only in the next season. For more help to process this transition, check out my 4-part video series: Who Am I Now, God? No sign-up required. The videos and handouts are all on my Videos page!