Sometimes you look forward to it; other times you dread it. You know it is coming, but it still sneaks up on you seemingly from out of nowhere!
Those 4 words elicit a wide array of emotions. Celebration! Sadness. Relief. Fear.
Our children are all within a few years of each other in age. It should not have surprised us that they would put us through this in short order! In the space of three years, we had multiple graduations, weddings, house and job moves, I went back to college, and many more life-transforming events. (And my husband broke his neck. But that is a story for another day!) We knew it was coming, but it still snuck up on us seemingly from out of nowhere. The Empty Nest is real.
Now what? The following considerations are born out of personal experience or observation during our 30+ years of working with families and students as they complete high school and college.
We have all heard too many stories about marriages failing, kids never coming home, families forever separated, and many more. In many ways, Empty Nest Syndrome reactions are similar to the processes of grief and loss. Some of the reactions result in consequences far greater than the hardship of the actual empty nest, or departure of a child from the home.
3 NEGATIVE Reactions to an Empty Nest:
The presence of children often hides ongoing struggles within marriage. Sometimes this is intentional where couples determine to stay together until the kids are grown. Other times problems begin to surface that you did not even realize were here.
Without the ongoing responsibility of raising and providing for children, some couples think it is easier to just call it quits.
2. Unhealthy living
Extra time and extra money without paying for dance, athletics, college fund, etc. can result is establishing poor habits of unhealthy eating, lack of physical activity, and more. Do not allow these to become a new reality, or the price you pay will be far more than that college fund!
Some couples want to hide the emptiness by hitting the road or flying the friendly skies. Travel is a blast, but make sure you are not staying away to cover up your sadness of the children being grown and gone.
But it is not only travel that is used to avoid sadness of an empty house, many people become consumed in their occupations to unhealthy levels. It might initially be to catch up on all the work missed during the graduate or wedding festivities, but work can quickly fill a gap left by the departure of a child. It might fill a gap, but that is not always a satisfying form of filling.
Unfortunately, these and other negative and destructive reactions to Empty Nest Syndrome often combine to result in devastation to your personal life, your family, and even that occupation in which you sought solace.
For in-depth understanding of Empty Nest Syndrome, follow this link to the Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/empty-nest-syndrome/art-20047165
But are these problems inevitable? Will they automatically become debilitating? Do we have to throw in the towel? Of course not!
6 Ways for Marriages to Survive When Empty Nest Syndrome Moves In:
1. Strive to make your marriage thrive, not just survive.
Do not just exist together, going through the routine motions, day after day. When the house gets quiet, many couples wake up to see they have separate lives, different schedules, and even different friends. While that might be the norm for many married couples, that does not have to be the only option!
Be intentional about returning to when you first fell in love. Do those things that brought you together and brought your hearts close. Look through old pictures, recall the stories to one another, maybe visit some of those places. Remember the dreams you once had and rekindle them! Set goals for the future, and never look at your marriage as a wasted opportunity. Every day is a new opportunity to begin again!
2. Start something new TOGETHER.
Travel, exercise, buy an old house and bring it back to life, start a blog, and the list could go on and on. Remember that elusive diet plan for which you just never had time? I would love to visit with you about the steps needed to begin an online venture such as a blog or ecommerce. Email me for more information: [email protected]
Travel was listed earlier in a negative context. But it can be such fun together, if not used to hide realities back at the quiet house. Go out to dinner, turn off the television, and have a conversation. Engage in meaningful conversation between the two of you, not about work, not about kids, but just about the two of you and your dreams for the future.
3. Plan your financial future; do not let your finances plan your future.
Ok, sure. We know this should have begun long before the empty nest came! But the reality for many people is that because you gave and gave and gave for your children, . . . you never prioritized your own future. Hopefully, they will not have to let us live with them when the time comes!
If you are in debt, GET OUT! Set a budget. Set goals. If you do not make a plan for your money, it just seems to vanish!
4. Transition from authority-driven parenting to honor-driven parenting.
Rules, rules, and more rules. Hopefully, you had some strong principles on which you built your family and raised your children, but now that the children are grown, they need the freedom to choose wisely. Parents cannot dictate it anymore. One of our goals at Harvesting Home is to emphasize many of the virtues and values that will help your home reap a harvest of blessing.
This is the time for a whole lot of grace. It is the time for you to practice being the father/mother of the prodigal child. It is the time to humble yourself and admit to your struggling young adult children that you did not always make wise choices. It is the time to open your arms wide to your children when their choices are not what you would prefer.
They will learn and grow in wisdom both from their good choices and from their poor choices. In both cases, be there to welcome them with forgiveness, grace, and love.
SUBSCRIBE to Harvesting Home for an upcoming blog post on this challenging transition!
5. Strengthen the foundations that will solidify your future, namely, your spiritual life.
For my husband and I, this is our faith in the Lord, and involvement in our local church. Begin, or begin again, a personal daily time of prayer and Bible reading, etc. Start with 5 minutes. You will be amazed at how it helps you keep life in perspective.
Pray for those children that are growing and going! You will enjoy this series on praying for your children and grandchildren! The principles apply no matter the age!
Also, many parents check out of church life when their kids are grown. But that is when you have more time, more resources, and more wisdom to share with others! Those young parents, single and married, and newly married couples desperately need some successful role models to whom they can look as mentors and encouragers. And sometimes they will receive guidance from you rather than their own parents, with whom they might have some resentment. You can help them repair those broken bridges also.
6. Prepare in advance!
Check back at www.harvestinghome.com for a future blog about Preparing Ahead for the Empty Nest! Make sure you subscribe to this webpage so that you do not miss out of upcoming content!
Empty Nest, Full Life: Discovering God’s Best for Your Next, by Jill Savage might be a great book for you to pick up!
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