A shift is coming in my parenting journey, one that almost all parents will go through. You may be years from this transition or are in the thick of it like I am, but either way it is what we have been preparing our kids (and ourselves) for since they day they were born.
In about six weeks, my twin daughters will be moving out of the house and into the dorms for their first year of college, leaving behind an empty nest. I have been telling myself “I’ll be fine.” For the past five plus years, I have worked hard on taking care of myself and creating a life outside of being “a mom”, creating new and deeper connections with friends and colleagues and making choices for my own well-being. Once they move out, I have no doubt I will keep myself busy, living my passion of supporting families towards deeper connection and consciousness, but I also know that I will miss seeing them every day.
As the move out date is quickly approaching, the reality of living without them at home is setting in. The house will likely be quieter and calmer. The house will remain clean longer than ten minutes. I won’t be juggling multiple schedules. With these and more changes coming, my life may be simpler, but my heart will be emptier. I will miss our daily face-to-face connections. I may even miss seeing the cabinet doors left open, finding a stray fork on the counter that didn’t make it into the dishwasher or the pile of shoes at the mudroom door. I know I will miss their laughter and yes, probably even their bickering. When the sadness hits, it can be a bit overwhelming. Rather than shoving it down and ignoring it, I breathe into my heart and feel hole in it gaping open. As I sit with the swirling emotions, my feelings move through me and slowly my heart feels whole again. I once again can feel the excitement and pride for our daughters and for myself at this upcoming transition.
As with any transition, it helps to have a few tips to prepare for the upcoming changes, no matter if you have years or weeks to go until your teenager leaves the nest. It is important to support not only your teenagers, but also yourself.
It can be big or small but choose an activity or passion that brings joy into your life. It can be going for a walk, creating art, writing, volunteering, anything that energizes you and feeds your soul. Make sure it is something you can continue to do once your teen moves out (make sure it is not something you can only do with your teen!). Knowing you will have this constant joy for yourself can help fill your own cup when the empty nest or your first (or second or third…) child moves out of the house. It can help your return to finding joy if and when any loneliness shows up.
Are you setting your teen up to make their own decisions? Do they have the skills they need to live on their own? Find something they alone can be responsible for – laundry, waking up on their own, increasing financial responsibility (paying for their own gas or outings with friends), deciding together what time they should be home for the night, making their own doctor appointment, the possibilities are endless. Once they master one skill, teach another. It is about allowing your teen to continue taking more and more responsibility for their own life, their own choices, as ultimately that is what will happen once they move out.
Remember in a few short months, or a few short years, your teenager will be moving out. What knowledge and tools do you want them to have once they are out from under your roof and your protective eyes. Don’t forget about yourself too - what tools do you need to help you with the transition from full time parent to creating a life outside of that primary role? Join me and take some time to reassess your own inner life and also how you are supporting your teenager’s autonomy.
As the empty nest arrives, it’s time for each of us to take flight on our next journey on this thing called life. How are you going to tend to your wings and your teenagers as we approach the time when they leave the nest?
We all deserve to fly…