3 Lessons I Learned About The Empty Nest

Raising kids to become responsible adults is every parent’s dream. We hold our breath raising kids, dreading the nightmare of adult kids screwing up and expecting us to bail them out. In the empty nest stage, you can finally exhale knowing your kids have flown the coup and are navigating their flight into adulthood. I know the feeling now that all three of my kids are living on their own. 2016 has been an especially meaningful year for me as an adult dad. I stepped in as a parent in each of their lives in a manner that gave them the support they needed without taking control. Three years ago I wrote a blog When Your Kids Become Adults. It was based on a conversation I had with my youngest son Jordan, who shared his interest in moving to Arizona. In August, my wife and I visited him there and were impressed with how well he is doing staying on course with his plan. In June I had the honor of officiating my son Justin’s wedding. We had some deep conversations on what it means to be an adult man and husband. Just two weeks ago we talked about a turbulent period in his young adult life that was tough on both of us. Tears of forgiveness flowed as two adult men hugged each other while we were hanging out in his backyard. Mid-July I travelled with my daughter Candace and her tribe of five to see her husband who recently returned to the military. It is not easy being a military family. Sacrifices are the norm. I witnessed the strength in their marriage as they support each other in the duties they perform. Candace told me several times what it meant to her to have me travel with them. It’s a week I will treasure forever. My three kids are doing pretty good finding their way into adulthood. It’s not perfect. They face challenges and hardships from time-to-time. But when they do I know my role. Here are three lessons I learned from my adult kids about the empty nest.
Adult kids prefer our presence over our parenting
They want to enjoy an adult relationship with us. It is their way of honoring us for a job well done! Sure, they may have problems to talk about, but they just want us to listen, provide some emotional support, and maybe a little advice–not too much. Here’s why.
Adult kids prefer to figure things out on their own
They understand that in order to mature, they have to learn to problem solve. If you did everything for them earlier in life, this phase may be harder. However, as a parent you must learn when to step in and how to step back. Listen to the All About We Podcast episode (at top of this page) as I get into this process. One of the biggest lessons I learned from my three kids is that in hard times they just wanted to know that I was present to listen and that I had confidence in them to figure things out.
Adult kids prefer to hang out with us as adults
It is very important to your kids that you see them as adults. They want you to kick back and enjoy them and not worry so much. Things are never going to be perfect. Don’t come over and tell them what they’re doing wrong, how to do it better, etc… You get the picture. When you hang out, let them pick up the check from time-to-time. My kids enjoy doing this! It is part of the rite of passage into adulthood.

Now for a bonus!

During my recent trip to Arizona to visit my son Jordan, I recorded a podcast with my cohost, Amanda Berlin. The interview topic was based on my blog “When Your Kids Become Adults”. I talk about the 3-Cs of parenting adult kids. You do not want to miss this podcast! Click the recording at the top of this blog.