5 Ways To Get Ready As Your Children Become Adults
Nick and Kati several years ago at a Campus Ministry Conference
The to-do list was long when our kids prepared to leave home - one to college straight after high school and the other to work in another state for a year before making any decisions about the future.
There were dorm room items to purchase, household items and furniture to gather. Clothes, bedding, books, and supplies to pack; roads to travel; boxes and suitcases to unpack. There were goodbyes to say, tears to hold back (and shed) and memories to savor as we drove away from each of them.
I'm happy with most of what we did to prepare for our empty nest. There are, however, 5 things that would have helped as I entered this new stage of life and relationship with our maturing children.
Some insights about what our relationship was evolving toward would have been helpful those first few years. But...
I've learned that this is a sensitive subject and because it's essential to protect the privacy of our adult children, we don't always feel free to talk and share.
This transition brings a mix of joy and pain, and it is often hard to figure out exactly what to share and how to be helpful.
Maybe most important, I've observed that every family experiences this time of transition differently.
My story is just that.
My relationship with my kids is different than your relationship with your kids. One size does not fit all.
Having said all that, looking back, here are 5 things I wish I had known to help me through the first 5 or 6 years after Nick and Kati left home.
1. There will be a new normal. (And it will keep changing.)
Independence is the path that leads from dependence to interdependence. Young adults often need space to get to know themselves apart from their families. They need space to learn who they are, what they believe, how to handle life on their own. They will often dance between wanting our advice and help and resenting our "interference."
It's not personal.
YOU didn't do anything wrong if your kids don't call home very often after they leave home.
And THEY are not selfish, thoughtless kids if they don't answer every text and phone call on your timetable.
They are busy.
Even when they are sitting quietly, seeming to stare out the window at nothing, they are busy.
Learning to make it on their own is exhausting work.
Specifically, pray about my relationship with them. All kinds of prayers are helpful, but because I hadn't realized how our relationship needed to evolve, I didn't talk to God about those changes. I prayed about what I thought of - daily prayers for their safety, prayers about their relationship with God, prayers for their new friendships, prayers for classes and jobs, prayers for roommates and all the learning that happens from living with non-family members.
But I never thought about praying for US.
For our relationship.
Specifically, that God would help me be who I needed to be
(It’s not all about me and my feelings.)
3. Listen and learn.
Learning to listen has been one of my most significant life challenges. I have so much to say! James is very wise, though, when he advises us to be "quick to listen and slow to speak." As I mastered this skill (still a work in progress), it opened pathways to a closeness I treasure deep in my heart. Disciplining myself to sit back and listen allowed me to learn new and interesting things about my maturing young adults.
The less I said and the more I simply enjoyed hearing their news, the more they wanted to share.
4.Becoming an independent adult is a process.
It's probably more of a process today than it was when I was growing up.
Learning the balance between supporting our kids when they make mistakes and rescuing them, so they don't suffer is an art - but one of the most necessary skills we must develop as parents of maturing young adults.
Allowing them to suffer the consequences of overspending, of being undisciplined, of wanting to fill their schedules with more fun than learning is an act of love on our part. I couldn't jump in to fix everything when they made mistakes.
5. Find a tribe.
I needed help maneuvering all the feelings I experienced those first few years. There were so many times I had no idea what to say, how to say it, how to help and when to stay silent. It helped to find a few trustworthy women that were going through similar things. Additionally, asking for input from women who were a bit ahead of me was one of the smartest decisions I made. Honestly, my solution was to interview hundreds of people to ask about their experiences. Hence, this blog.
These are just a few of the lessons I've learned so far. I'd love to know what has helped you on your journey. Does any of this resonate with your experience? What else do you want to know? What more could I include in this list? Let's connect and help each other - we are all in this together!
If you prefer to talk privately, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Scriptures for our continued success...
"Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path."
"...But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead."
2 Corinthians 1:9b
"My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry..."
"Surely you need guidance to wage war, and victory is won through many advisers."
"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others."