Empty Nest: How to Cope When Children Leave.
Surviving and thriving after children leave home can be a bittersweet moment.
Children are the most precious gifts of grace and jewels you will treasure forever.
Saying goodbye to a child who is leaving home is one of the most powerful and emotional experiences in a parent’s life.
It’s now time to Activate The Self Healing Process within you to get the right mindset for the new journey!
Years full of memories–snuggling your newborn child, placing a Band-aid on a sore knee, shuffling through school papers and agendas,
driving your child to events, or listening as your child poured out his heart–seem so tangible and so visceral—as if you could touch them.
Yet as you watch your child drive away for the last time, those memories and moments seem to slip through your fingers like water.
New York Best Selling author Max Lucado in “You Are Never Alone: Trust in the Miracle of God’s Presence and Power” teaches you how to recognize that you are never without hope or strength because you are never, ever, alone.
I can vividly identify with the feelings of loneliness and despair a mother can experience when their children leave home.
Leaving home may not just be for college. It includes when they leave to settle maritally with their significant others or postings to faraway jobs.
My desire has always been for my children to succeed in everything and to fulfill their God-designed destinies according to Isiaih 8:18 that declares that I and the children God has given me are for signs and wonders – paraphrased.
I was happily looking forward to when my last child would leave for college.
I could not see the feeling of despair and anxiety that came over me weeks before the actual day he left coming.
Letting go and adjusting to my new norm was harder than I expected.
There were days that I was enveloped by desperate feelings of loneliness.
Other days I would be so anxious about his welfare that I would facetime him at 2 A.M or other odd hours of the day and night.
When we dropped him off at his college, 4 hours away from home, our hearts were gladdened and we could sense the feeling of independence he was feeling around him.
Actually, he couldn’t wait to leave for college! He had been held down too long by these “strict” parents!
It took me quite some time to adjust to the new environment without my son.
I would still call out his name to come to give me the remote, turn the outside lights on, get me this and that, only to realize that he wasn’t there.
How can it be possible that the child that you poured your life into for so many years is gone?
My friend, if you are experiencing an empty nest, let these words from Isaiah 4:10 comfort you and give you the encouragement and strength to move on.
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you.
I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”
This article provides important keys to the empty nest: how to intentionally adjust to the new role when children leave.
These tips helped me a lot and I hope they help you too.
1. Remember the Past, But Don’t Try To Recreate It.
When your child leaves home and you are experiencing empty nest syndrome, remembering the past can make it easier to bear.
During those sentimental days just after your child leaves home, his or her whole life seems to pass before your eyes.
The tears flow as you remember every moment of your little one’s entire growing up years.
Sure, it’s been years since mud puddles, hair bows, or baby bottles, yet suddenly the past returns with an immediacy that had been drowned by the daily grind of high school, and football/basketball/track/music practice.
Suddenly, you remember; you reminisce.
In “Release My Grip, ” by popular blogger Kami Gilmour, she offers inspiration and some practical insights as she reveals the personal surprising truth she learned while knee-deep in this sacred season of parenthood.
You wish that you had treasured the memories more.
And you want to recreate them.
The important thing to remember is that your child isn’t dwelling on all the memories.
He or she is launching in excitement towards their future, or they are worried about the new environment, college, studying, textbooks, and friends.
As you ponder the past, don’t try to cling to it.
Keep your eyes on your child as he or she is right now, this minute.
What are her needs as she faces the future?
How can you thank God for the past and pray for his or her needs today?
Focus on the new prayer needs and intercede for them more.
Focus on parenting your adult child/children without losing your mind.
2. Lament And Let Go.
Healthy grieving is an important part of saying goodbye to your children.
Rather than stuffing down your feelings of sadness, recognize that you sacrificed, loved, and invested for more than 17 to 18 years as you raised this child.
Your life is undergoing a major change, so don’t dismiss the pain you feel.
Take your time.
Start your day, every day on a positive note.
Cry, journal, drink herbal organic teas, talk to a friend, and acknowledge the losses.
A journal like, “Empty Nest, Full Life Journal,” designed with ample space for writing or drawing, will help you slow down, reflect, and record your thoughts as you work through the book.
The full book, “Empty Nest, Full Life: Discovering God’s Best for Your Next” teaches you what you need to let go of and hold on to and offers encouragement for when you’re feeling confused and discouraged.
Proactively indulge in self-care practices to better take care of your spiritual, emotional, and mental health.
Essential oils are very popular now and have uncountable uses.
I personally like them in a diffuser for aromatherapy.
Another alternative use for essential oil aromatherapy is the SOOTHING AROMATHERAPY PLUSH WRAP: Sources say they relieve muscle pain & tension & promote relaxation.
This hot & cold plush wrap envelops your shoulders & neck for a customized fit adaptable to any body type.
Depending on how I feel on a particular day, I can use essential oils topically with a carrier to relieve tension and for relaxation.
Jeramy and Jerusha Clark help put your losses in words: “Loss of closeness, loss of ‘being needed,’ loss of control, loss of confidence.
You may feel like you don’t know what you’re doing.
Grieve the loss of confidence and gear up for the learning curve.
God promises that you’re not alone in this; he will strengthen you and help you; he will uphold you with His victorious right hand.”
When you name your losses and take time to grieve, it will enable you to let go in a healthy way, so you don’t overburden your child with your pain.
If you fail to see the importance of lament, you will be more likely to pressure your adult child and drag him or her into your complex grief process.
It’s easy to want to hold on to your children.
Wishing you could make up for your past mistakes or have just one more breakfast together, you want to pull your child closer.
But this is the time to let go.
Take the time to grieve by yourself, with God, or with your spouse, friend, or your pastor, so that you don’t feel tempted to use your grief to manipulate your child.
3. Believe, Don’t Burden.
Speak words of honor to your adult child. Pray for them more and trust that they will be sensitive and obedient to the Holy Spirit and to hearing from God.
Rather than burdening him or her with your own expectations and dreams for them, affirm the person that God created your son or daughter to be.
Make sure your child knows that you are proud of him or her.
Speak words that lift them up.
At this point in their lives and during my personal moments of despair, I had to come to the realization that my job is to pray to Almighty God and God’s work is to answer. That right there gave me peace!
If your child is showing initiative and growth, let them know you respect their hard work.
When your son or daughter works on building friendships with fellow students in the dorm, share, “I am in awe of the way you are showing kindness and reaching out to your new friends. You are a loyal and caring person. Way to go!”
Let them know that you admire the man or woman that they are becoming.
Even when they hold opinions that you disagree with, Emerson Eggerichs in “Love and Respect in the Family: The Respect Parents Desire; The Love Children Need” recommends saying the following:
“I respect that you are seriously thinking about this problem and feel strongly about the remedy.”
Listen to your child and admire their deep thoughts, their attempts to connect with others, their steps towards diligence, and other things.
Often, words of encouragement go a lot farther than words of rebuke.
Even when you must offer correction to your child, do so in a way that affirms your belief in the adult they will become.
Eggerichs recommends something like the following: “I believe in you. Because I believe in you and the man you are becoming, my role is to help you to be a self-disciplined man of honor,” and then going on to share the gentle rebuke.
Words of support help your adult child understand that you are cheering them on, even if they don’t fulfill your own personal expectations and career goals.
4. Support With No Strings Attached.
When you find yourself in an empty nest, it’s difficult to let go.
You have to understand who your child has become and how the parenting technique must change too.
In addition to sharing words of honor, it’s important to support your child emotionally.
Be there for them.
Make sure they know that you will always be a listening ear and a source of encouragement to them.
Send them open-ended texts that don’t demand a reply.
Surprise your child with care packages often. I did initially and still do!
Share fun facts you learned, interesting things that happened in your day, or something you are praying for in your child’s day to day life.
Ask yourself a hard question: “Deep down, is the purpose of this message to get a response, a reply, a visit, or an affirmation of love?
Or is it to show unconditional support for my child?”
Kids can often read our motives.
When we manipulate to try to get a response, a reply, or a visit, kids often feel frustrated and shamed.
Instead, speak words of encouragement that let your child see your love, your respect, and your hope in their future.
But don’t try to pressure them into seeing you or meeting your own personal needs.
5. Find New Ways to Meet Your Own Personal Needs.
Speaking of getting your own needs met, you will need to find other avenues to finding fun and satisfaction.
When you used to turn to your child for companionship, diversion, busyness, or relief from loneliness, you will now have to find other people to turn to.
This is a great time to spend extra time with God.
Find friends to hang out with, perhaps other empty nesters who are feeling a bit at loose ends.
You can also start small scale gardening.
This is one of the ways I occupied myself during those times I would normally spend with my son.
Some of my organically homegrown herbs and vegetables include bitter leaf, saint leaf, kale, varieties of peppers, tomatoes, and aloe vera.
Bitter leaf (Vernonia amygdalina) is an indigenous African shrub or small tree with studies that claim many health benefits.
They now come in these forms:
Dried leaves, and
According to a publication in PMC – US National Library of Medicine. “Many herbalists in Africa recommend its aqueous extracts for their patients as a treatment for varieties of ailments ranging from emesis, nausea, diabetes, loss of appetite, dysentery and other gastrointestinal tract problems to sexually transmitted diseases and diabetes mellitus among others  (Figure 1). Some of these and other uses have been verified experimentally and documented by various workers, thus providing scientific evidence to support many of these claimed health benefits [6,10,14,22–32].”
There are other ways to survive and thrive in your empty nest.
A job, a new hobby, or a volunteer opportunity at your church or in the community.
These can be great ways to occupy yourself and meet your need for significance and service.
Be OK with going to your child’s favorite store, coffee shop, or entertainment venue—by yourself or with a friend.
You could even text your child photos!
Another thing that helped me a lot was Face timing. My son made it a point of duty up to this day to facetime every day.
Even though he has left home, the bond is still strong.
Although it will certainly take a while, learn to be ok on your own.
If intense grief has been going on for a very long time and you can’t seem to find your identity apart from your child, feel free to find a therapist to help you with complicated grief.
6. Allow Change In The Relationship And Devote Time to Other Relationships
There’s no denying it: saying goodbye to kids hurt, and it changes things forever.
Even though you will be able to repeat some of your favorite activities, things will never be the same.
You will likely still enjoy a rich relationship with your child; you will likely get to repeat all the fun things you are longing to do: sitting and talking, going to coffee, celebrating Christmas traditions, or even performing simple tasks like ironing your son’s shirt.
Though the memories and traditions will still be there, it’s important to let go of your hope that you will be able to recreate the old days and bring back the past.
Acknowledge to yourself that things will never be the same.
If you are married, concentrate on rebuilding your marriage or rekindling your marriage relationship with HappiNest: Finding Fulfillment When Your Kids Leave.
Commit to starting to do those things you couldn’t do because of parenting obligations.
Reconnect with old friends – good positive friends that can build you up and explore volunteering opportunities at your local church and in the community.
Letting go of the past and of the elusive “same” that you’re hoping for is hard.
It feels like another death.
When you are able to let go of things being the “same,” you will be more open to treasuring the moments that do remind you of the old days.
Michael Anderson, in his book, Gist, explains that parental love must change over the years.
He says, “In every relationship and aspect of life, love must evolve to survive.
Bringing this child home must evolve into sending that child into the world.
Potential must evolve into limitations.
Hope must evolve into disappointment.
Perfection must evolve into reality and failure. …Our love as parents must evolve.
It might even need to evolve from a ‘would never hurt’ love into a ‘need to allow hurt’ love.”
Letting your child go certainly hurts, and your relationship with your child will never be the same.
Open yourself up to the fact that beautiful things lie ahead—even if they are not exactly like the beautiful things that lay in the past.
7. Influence, But Don’t Insist.
As parents, we feel like we know what is best for our children.
After all, when they were small, we regulated every aspect of their lives.
From the clothes they wore to the food they ate, we provided for them with wisdom and discretion.
We made decisions about their schooling, their healthcare, their nutrition, their technology, and their learning.
Now, you will likely see your child making choices that are different than the ones you would have made.
It’s easy to want to jump in and control the situation like you did when your child was a toddler.
However, Jeramy and Jerush Clark ask a probing question that reminds us of our true priorities: “What does forcing your agenda ultimately accomplish?”
Even when children are younger, it’s impossible to truly control them.
Clarks continues, “Despite daily evidence that we can’t control our kids, many of us cling to the illusion that we can protect them from doing something foolish, something hurtful, something that will seriously damage their future opportunities.”
Rather than forcing children to be what you had hoped and envisioned, try to see your child for who they really are: a person of dignity created by God.
Slow down long enough to really understand the beauty and complexity of your adult child.
Rather than controlling, learn to accept your child as he or she really is, even if it hurts (from Youtube video, Risky Relationships: Replacing Remote Control with Real Connection).
Recognize the role changes that the empty nest has brought and learn to gradually adjust.
8. Rely on God for Strength And Focus on Yourself
Saying goodbye to kids is not easy.
You may wonder how you will survive your empty nest when children leave home.
The empty nest may seem overwhelming and unbearable sometimes. The word of God brings peace that surpasses understanding
Jerusha Clark gives these timely words of encouragement: “Now is the time to pay close attention to your own heart and mind…
The Holy Spirit can give you wisdom and insight, consolation, and strength.
You need those things, and you cannot manufacture them on your own.”
The empty nest may seem like it carves an emptiness in your soul that goes to your very core.
Saying goodbye to your kids leaves a void that only the Lord can fill.
But, you have to accept your child’s independence and encourage them to succeed.
The Lord offers His comforting fullness as a balm to your emptiness.
When you are weak, God comes near to help and support.
For those who feel that they cannot go on today, I pray the words of Ephesians 3:16-21:
“I ask that out of the riches of His glory He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.
Then you, being rooted and grounded in love, will have power, together with all the saints, to comprehend the length and width and height and depth of the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”
Did you catch that? He can fill you with His fullness.
And he finishes up the verse with a promise:
“Now to Him who is able to do so much more than all we ask or imagine,
according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
Saying goodbye to children moving away is no easy task. It’s not for the faint of heart.
But with God’s grace, you can make a slow and healthy adjustment.
As you learn how to survive when children leave home, you will begin to see the beauty of your new life.
With God’s grace and consistent support, you can have hope in your revamped empty nest.
Sending lots of love, blessings, and positivity your way:)