The Empty Nest - How to parent your adult children
Ok.. so spoiler alert... that title is NOT indicative of my vast font of wisdom that I plan on sharing with you here. It is the title of a Q&A that I attended this week with my friend, Marie.
Marie and I both have been adapting (along with our husbands) to our own "empty nests". Her son, Simeon, and my son, Bendigo, are both finishing up their first full years of college. While Ben is slightly older and has technically been out of the house for almost 2 years, it still seems strange to have him gone. AND... as all of my children are now "adult", the information offered seemed pertinent.
So... what were the pearls of wisdom we gleaned? Well.... I'm not sure they were as obvious as jewels laying on the beach. BUT... following is a synopsis of the highlights we came away with.
- Be friends with your husband, and have interests apart from your children, BEFORE they all leave the house. Otherwise, you and your husband will find yourselves starting at each other wondering what to talk about, or roaming restlessly around the house trying to kill time. (I very much enjoyed my time with Marie, talking about .... anything that I HADN'T been talking about with Jeff)
- If you were successful in teaching your children to be self-sufficient, independent and capable, don't beat yourself up when they don't need (or want) your help. Rejoice! (And, maybe cry just a drop or two in private over the bittersweet thought) This was especially clear today when I kept asking if I could help Bendigo move out of his dorm, or clean his room, or haul stuff for him and he kept texting back "No". "I'm Fine". "No". <Big Sigh>
- When your adult children return home for extended visits (or they become one of the 'boomerang kids') remember that they have been out making their OWN routines with dishes, clothes, cleaning, entertainment, etc. So, you can't expect them to just fall back into the ones you taught them so well when they lived with you. Some flexibility and adjustment on YOUR part will be necessary to ensure things run smoothly.
- Another note pertaining to the kids that return home: It may be a good idea to have a sit-down with them BEFORE they move back in. This should be in a neutral location (perhaps take them our for a nice lunch?). In that casual setting, you can explain that you want to try and prevent any major issues by gently explaining your expectations. You also should make sure to ask them what THEIR expectations are. In this way, many arguments or sore feelings may be avoided.
- If feelings DO get hurt at some point, it will probably be necessary for YOU, the parent, to bridge the gap. Go to the adult child, let them know that you noticed that perhaps you've stepped on some toes, and you'd like to apologize, find out why they felt the way they did, and how you can avoid it in the future. If YOU are the hurt party, it may be necessary to let it go. If not, then the same steps apply. You go to them, explain that you are feeling hurt and why, and that you'd like to talk about how it can be avoided. (As an example, a lady at the Q&A explained that during a recent family stay-over at her dad's place (the grandfather), she was tasked with handing out info such as where towels were, room assignments etc., by her father. She perhaps went a tad far when she gave specific instructions on where each person was to hang their towel. Her daughter became somewhat upset and when asked why, said she felt like her mother was treating them all like children, even though they were all in their 30's. The mother admitted her mistake, apologized, and promised to try and avoid that in the future.)
- Finally, remember that your adult children still need your unqualified love and support. Learning to "adult" out there in this crazy society of ours is HARD. We need to be role-models, information kiosks, and soft-shoulders all while having thick hides.
Good luck with your ducklings, and remember that you will ALWAYS be Mom. Happy Mother's Day!!
P.S.: Two resources that you may find helpful are:
"The Mother-In-Law Dance" by Annie Chapman
"How to go home without feeling like a child" by William Coleman