With back-to-school season looming around the corner, you may be faced with a dilemma of a different kind–one that does not involve whether to buy jeans or pants for your child's return to school this fall. You may find yourself wishing that was your dilemma, but instead you're facing a myriad of emotions revolving around being an "empty nester."
Boni Piper and Judith Balswick, co-authors of Then They Leave Home, say that parents' letting-go process begins when their children are born: "As we look at our newborn children . . . we dream dreams for [them] . . . that give them important lives to live and enormous purposes to fulfill. The reality that they will have to leave us in order to do those great and marvelous works is not fully realized."
While your emotions are valid, it's important not to allow them to control you for several reasons:
God desires us to live by faith. If we're anxious or worried, we need to take our concerns to Him. Philippians 4:6 says, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."
Parents Are to Be the Stewards
Parents are stewards of the children God has blessed them with. The Word of God says, "Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it" (Proverbs 22:6). There comes a time when you have to let go and trust that your child will not depart from godly teaching.
God often uses changing circumstances to change us. Ask God what He wants to teach you through this experience.
It's important to remember that this is a transition time for everyone involved. If you have other children in the home, they may feel "left out." Make sure to not only include them in the "leaving home" festivities of your older children, but also to be sensitive to the younger children's need for their own individual attention.
Your spouse is another member of the family who will be affected. Let your spouse know how excited you are about getting to know him or her again. Plan a weekend getaway to celebrate your marriage.
Don't forget the child who is leaving. He might be feeling his own mixed emotions–excitement about new experiences, but fear of the unexpected. Try to be sensitive to his feelings, too.
Learning to re-parent your child away from home is another balancing act. As he spreads his wings to test his "flight" from the "nest," let him know that you're there for him, but don't smother him. Curfews and rules–and many of your child's decisions–no longer have a strong presence in your parenting role. Piper and Balswick write that the day your child leaves "announces to the world that adult children are on their own in ways they never before experienced. . . . Whatever happens from this day, for better or for worse, parents are no longer in the driver's seat."
A Few Suggestions
After your child leaves, if you find yourself in a silent house twiddling your thumbs, here are a few suggestions:
Pray. God's Word says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him" (James 1:5). Let God know how you're feeling, or that you don't know quite what to do, and listen to His voice. He will guide you.
Explore your optionsPersue. Explore your options. Look into developing a new hobby, taking a class, or getting involved with a new ministry. Recapture a goal that was sidelined due to a lack of time. Your child will appreciate the fact that you have your own life apart from him. It also models to him a valuable life lesson that parents are not just parents–they're regular people, too.
Plan Look at your future. Ask God to help you set new goals that are in line with the changes you are incurring.
Participate. When the dust has settled from your child's departure, ask him how you can help him in his own transition. If he's away at college, he might enjoy a care package with his favorite magazines and snack foods. If he has a new job, he may appreciate a note of encouragement. The key to participating in your child's life now is that you take more of a supportive role rather than a controlling one. You may be tempted to protect your child as he enters new circumstances, but it's important to remember that he needs to learn how to rely on God to protect him.
Copyright © 1997 January IN TOUCH magazine
IN TOUCH MINISTRIES®, ITM, Inc.
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Used with Permission