You did it! You raised your children to adulthood without going stark raving crazy. Congratulations! All the sleepless nights, rushing around, chauffeuring to countless activities, missed opportunities, school morning dramas, homework, school forms, PTA meetings, skinned knees, general worrying and the heart to heart talks over childhood disappointments. Whew! And now the result? Adult children who are responsible, contributing members of society.
Rejoice in the satisfaction and relief that, as a parent, you can confidently let go of your adult children knowing they can navigate their own decisions and mistakes. Enjoy their company as adults. Value time visiting with them knowing that you each return to your own private lives to live independently. Embrace the change, both in their lives and, most importantly, in yours.
The role you play as a parent can become an integral part of your identity. Know that you do not lose that sense of identity, but that it simply takes on a new form. Friend, advisor, supporter and fan – that is your new parenting role.
Take time to focus on the relationships in your life. Research has shown that parents of grown children experience an increase in the quality of time they spend with their spouses. You have time once again, not only to concentrate on each other, but on yourself as well, allowing you to care for yourself in a way that makes you more able to care for others. Take the time to remind yourself of your true values and seek out activities that speak to those values. Put those parenting skills and experience to good use in a new career, or within your community as a volunteer. Rediscover what is important to you as an individual, such as education, art, faith or service to others. You have earned the “wisdom” that comes with age and experience, and you can now apply that wisdom to your new life.
Research has also found that as we age, especially when we reach the “empty nest” stage of life, we experience increased happiness. Not only because our children are no longer a daily responsibility, but because we are no longer driven by intense ambition and high expectations of future success. We have reached a point in life, through experiences filled with both joy and tragedy, where we understand gratitude and become more accepting of ourselves and those around us.
As we become reacquainted with ourselves at this point in our life journey, we discover the joy of getting to know our children anew, as adults. We can observe them applying the knowledge and values we sought to teach them, knowing that it was all worth the effort. If you miss your children when they leave the nest, that is a good sign! Know that your deep, abiding love for them continues and replace the feeling of loss with the joy of gain. You are gaining the relationship of an adult child, living independently, sharing their adult journey with you.