During the high school years, it hits you. Time moves fast when you are raising kids. Suddenly those children that depended upon you for everything are now spreading their wings and flying far, far away from you. They drive, work, and now have a ‘private’ life. For parents this total loss of control – especially as they get ready to leave for college or move out of the house can cause extreme sadness and even depression for parents.
What are you going to do now? How will you adjust to having less people in the house? How can you remain connected to your child, whilst allowing them to feel empowered and free? Truth is, preparing yourself for the empty nest is something that you need to start doing in the years before your child actually leaves by letting go slowly but surely, little by little so that the day they leave won’t come as such a massive blow to your existence.
Of course, parents are filled with fear and dread when they see their kids leaving. Most of us, as parents feel that as long as our child is WITH us physically, we can offer some sort of protection or safety. We worry about whether they are mature enough to handle adult situations and whether or not they will make the right decisions. Remind yourself that you have spent many years instilling values in your child to prepare them for this exact moment in their life. And also remind yourself that they are sure to make mistakes and mess up along the way. Life is about learning as you go – and just as you had to learn how to live on your own – they will too.
One of the most important things that parents need to do, starting in the high school years – is getting reacquainted with YOURSELF and your partner. All those things that you have put on the back burner because you haven’t had the time to do while raising kids? Now is the time to do them. Make new friends. Find new passions. Pursue your own dreams. Make some plans for the future, for those days when you won’t have kids to feed every night and arguments to manage over homework and curfews. If you can learn to enjoy your time as a parent of an ‘adult,’ you will feel much better about letting them go. Additionally, if you become ultimately too attached to your child, you will silently make them feel guilty for doing what is only natural? Growing up. One of the hardest lessons for parents to learn is that your child is not responsible for your happiness. You are responsible for your happiness. By setting the stage and preparing years in advance, when the time comes – you may actually look forward to your time to explore your own personal passions and pleasures. The same is true for that marriage that has taken the backseat for so many years so that you could raise your children.
It is also important to prepare your children. Even if your instincts are to coddle, protect, and do as much as possible for your child – doing so does not do your child any favors. Your child has to learn about consequences and has to learn to take responsibility for themselves. Teach them how to cook, how to shop, how to do laundry. Make sure that they are in charge of their own money and that you aren’t continually bailing them out of financial situations. Show them how to keep records and how to be accountable. The earlier your child has the freedom to make the common mistakes of life, the better off they will be when they actually fly the coop. Remember that their failures or setbacks do not belong to YOU and that you are NOT responsible for them – UNLESS you have rendered your child helpless. Whether you have a son or a daughter – they should learn how to manage the basics of life and learn how to solve their own problems.
In reality, there is no way to be fully prepared for the day your son or daughter packs their car and pulls out of your driveway. Until that moment occurs, you won’t know you feel. Maybe you will feel relieved. Maybe sad. Perhaps a little reminiscent. Many parents feel suddenly useless. What you should focus on the most is feeling proud of your child and of yourself. Have faith in the fact that you raised a good kid! And of course, remind your child that if they need you, when they need you – you will always be there for them.
When your child becomes an adult, many parents actually find that they have a much better relationship with their kid than they did before. Now, is the time when you can become your child’s friend. And although you may not agree with, or particularly like all of their personal decisions or choices in life – you have to at the very least, respect them enough to let them live their life by their terms. Scary for sure. Your role as a parent never really ends. But from the moment you held your newborn, your job as a parent was to prepare your kids for life. The shortest part of their life is spent in the familial home with mom and dad, and yet those years are the most important as far as forming the foundation for which they will live.