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Last month I shared with you two important tips for parents of teens. If you’re blessed to be in that stage of life – and yes, it IS a blessing – then you also realize that the teen years, too, fly by.
They may even go a bit faster than those “baby years” seem to have flown!
All of a sudden, before you can even say “Please carry that empty chip bag to the trash!” or “Honey, those dirty dishes can go in the dishwasher…” Poof! They’re gone. The years and the kids. (No promises on the chip bags or the dirty dishes, tho…)
We’ve launched four of ours already, and I’m grateful that, for the most part, I have pretty positive relationships with them all. So today I’d like to pass on to some observations I’ve gleaned in the process.
What an empty nest looks like
Don’t fall for the lie that an empty nest means your kids are all gone. These days, there are many permutations on the empty nest concept. If you have fiercely driven teens, they may be well on their way to living pretty independent lives while still living at home. That counts as moving towards an empty nest at least.
What’s more, these days, with the stupid-high costs of college and the overwhelming choices your teen will face after high school graduation, there’s a good chance they may be home for a few years, or even return home for a spell during their transition to adulting.
You can have an empty nest, momma, while your young adults are still around.
Fortunately, these reflections apply to any stage of the game: whether you’re preparing for them to leave, they have truly flown the coop, or they are using their childhood home as a temporary base of operations.
Preparing for the empty nest
Of course, the ultimate end game is to raise independent, capable adults who are able to live on their own, use the gifts and talents they’ve been blessed with to contribute to society and Kingdom building, and eventually “rinse and repeat” the process in their own homes.
Which means they’ll have to tear away from the comfort of the nest you’ve built…
Realize that tearing hurts.
So, to take a lesson from last month’s playbook, this may hurt a bit, but it’s not about you…or your hurt. Remember that your role as a parent is to parent them, and launching them sometimes hurts. At the very least, you’re gonna miss ‘em a whole lot. Take your fears and hurts and pain and whatever to the Lord. Don’t dump it on your kiddo’s shoulders; it’s not their issue. And they don’t need your baggage as they’re trying to navigate a new stage in life.
Use the time for YOU
If you’ve spent much of your life being an “all in”, fully committed mom (which you probably were if you’re reading this), my guess is that you may have given yourself a bit of the short shrift in terms of preparing yourself for this stage of the game.
You’ve helped them with academic issues, navigating graduation needs, personal social drama (theirs, most of the time), late night talks regarding a myriad of topics that have been on their minds…probably at the expense of your own personal development to some degree. ‘Cause that’s just how us mommas roll.
But one way to help your teen forge ahead is to show them how you’ll forge ahead without them. Truly your teen does not want to think they’re moving ahead in life while momma’s back at the nest crying her eyes out. Your teen wants to be proud of you, too.
Go ahead and start that class you’ve always wanted to take. Learn to paint. Take the promotion. Volunteer at the hospital. Put into practice all the things you’ve been encouraging your teen to do all these years as they’ve been figuring out how to craft their future!
Maintaining a happy empty nest
Momma, the two steps above will go far in preparing yourself for the inevitable launch, even as your teens or young adults may be chomping at the bit. Once they’ve gone – whether it’s “only” emotionally or they’ve actually packed their bags (minus their baseball or dance trophies and a ton of garbage left in their old room), keep these concepts in mind, as well.
Be creative about staying connected
Remember as your sweet little babies were born you discovered how different they really were? That didn’t change over the years, and it still carries through into the adult years! So “keeping in touch” will also look different for every one of them. “Your mission, mom, should you decide to accept it” is to work that out uniquely.
Personally, I have a standing phone call each week with one of my kids. I appreciate having their undivided attention for a bit, and I think he appreciates knowing I won’t call just to check in at an inopportune time!
With another, we share Bible studies on an app we use and can read each other’s comments and communicate via the app. We get a deep vision into each other’s struggles as we both decide on the themes and topics of upcoming studies.
With yet another, we text like crazy, including pictures, which I adore! Pictures feel like a real-time glimpse into their lives, and of course, the cliche always applies regarding the word-count…
Don’t be afraid to use social media (with care and discernment, of course) to keep up with them. DM (direct message) a joke, share a helpful Pin, a meme on Instagram, or a status update on Facebook. Keep it light, and when they really need you for a serious issue, they’ll know you’re there for them. Just remember to keep it on their terms, because, circling back to our recurring theme, and say it with me, momma: “It’s not about me!”
Understand that this is a busy season of life for them. When they reach out to connect with you, it’s NOT because they have nothing else to do. They have made a conscious decision to keep in touch, and they have a need for you (even if it IS just for a quick loan or a recipe). Thank them for their call, or text, or Facetime. Smile at them; you can do this even if you’re talking on the phone. Tell them you love them. Share something about your life (but keep it short and sweet…). Seriously, Jesus’ words to do to others as you would have them do to you (Matt 7:12) totally apply here.
While this stage in life is just momentary, once a parent, always a parent. How your role plays out may change, but don’t let the connection be broken. Hopefully, in the future, you’ll also become a close friend. (Ideally, one of their best friends!) Stay with the changes, always let them know you love them to pieces and keep rolling with the punches. God has placed you in each other’s lives for a purpose and with a plan. He’s got you both, momma, so you’ve got this!
After almost 25 years of home-educating her five children, Pat Fenner is making the most of her “retired homeschool mom” status. She encourages and inspires others as they continue the journey through the high school years at her blog BreakthroughHomeschooling, and helps moms find meaning and purpose in the “post-homeschooling” stage of life.