Now that we are parents of two young adult daughters, we are tasked with the responsibility of letting them practice what we’ve spent 21 years teaching. For me, this is not as easy thing. I find it difficult to cut those apron strings!
Now I don’t believe I was an overly cautious or what some may label a helicopter parent. But I will admit I occasionally had to be reminded, by my husband, to pull back sometimes. I believe we made a great team!
As teenagers, we tried to install in them a sense of responsibility, for their actions, and also for their well being. Most of the time they made their own choices and although they looked to us for advice, we tried to give them the information to make the best decisions for themselves. Some of the advice may have been strongly suggestive, especially if they were facing an important or significant decision.
I am in my third year as a university parent, and it still isn’t always easy. From that first night of worrying about Chelsea alone in her dorm room, to this week’s concern over a reaction that Ashlyn experienced after receiving a vaccine, it’s a constant struggle. I’ve read it takes about 18 months to 2 years for both parents and children to adjust. Some parents seem to breeze through this phase, but even if this is emotionally difficult, it is possible to be happy in this new stage of life.
- Start practicing when they’re young – A confident child will manage things better on their own, and when you know they are ready, it’s much easier. Just like you might teach your child to tie their own shoes and zip their own coats to get ready for school, you need to teach your children basic life skills before they leave the nest. “Prepare the Child for Road, Not the Road for your Child.” I love this quote, and it’s a great read in HuffPost.
- Get a new hobby, or revisit an old pastime that brings you joy – Maybe you have always wanted to learn to paint, or start a book club, but life with children has not allowed you enough time to pursue. Or you and your girlfriends may have had to abandon Friday night dinners out when children’s activities interfered, or you were simply too tired after chasing toddlers all day. Before they actually leave the nest is the best time to rekindle old interests or explore a new activity.
- Keep in touch – Staying connected with your child with today’s technology is fairly easy. When we went off to university, our parents had to call the pay phone on the dormitory floor, and pray that someone would answer and go find us! But with such easy modes of communication , we need to be mindful not to stay too connected. We all need our space to grow in this changing period. This is one of the hardest things for me…..I still send a good morning and good night message pretty much every day!
- Focus on the positives – It’s not helpful to dwell on the fact that the house is so quiet. Instead focus on the positives …….it might be the fact that your child is doing something they are passionate about, or something as simple as meal planning and food shopping! I used to be at the grocery store several times a week, and now I sometimes go less than once a week.
- Plan visits – Depending on how far away your child has ventured, it’s nice to plan a trip to visit them, or maybe plan a trip away with them. Keeping these future visits in your mind helps you get through the lonelier days.
- Refocus on relationships – Maybe your marriage would benefit from a little extra attention these days. My parents used to go to the movies all the time, but they rarely went while I was growing up. I love that they are back to enjoying this favourite pastime! Also, don’t forget about those friends who may have drifted over the years. My friends from high school have a weekend getaway planned this spring, as we all celebrate turing 50.
- Take time for yourself – You know the old saying that “you can’t care pour from an empty cup.” Maybe you didn’t take enough time for yourself when you were full time parenting. Now you have the time, why not take pleasure in an activity just for you. Maybe it’s reading more books, or practicing yoga.