The Kids Are Gone, Now What?
When your youngest child graduates from high school, life changes. Whether they go to college, into the military or enter the workforce full-time, things will never be the same. That sounds sad, and it is. It’s okay to grieve the passing of this stage of life. Don’t let anyone tell you how to feel or act. It may take some time to find yourself comfortable with your “new normal”, but be confident that joy will return. Psalm 30:11-12 says: You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. Lord my God, I will praise you forever.
Once you find yourself able to say “empty nest” without getting tears in your eyes, it is time to ask, “Now what?” While the day-to-day role of parenting has come to a close, your “kids” still need you in a different capacity. As you set aside the role of “disciplinarian”, you can pick up the roles of “coach” and “friend”. I miss having kids at home, but I love this new stage of our relationship.
My husband Randy and I have also found ourselves in a great place. Our relationship has stood the test of time, and we enjoy that every night can be “date night” if we want it to be! This is a great time to find new ways to serve together. We started a group with six young couples to mentor in their early marriage years. We love our Tuesday nights with them!
But maybe you have found yourself in a different situation and woke up with no kids at home, staring into the face of a stranger you no longer love. Many marriages fall apart after the kids move out, but there is hope. First of all, get a copy of Timothy Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage and begin reading it today! Keller says, “It is a mistake to think that you must feel love to give it…you can change your heart over the long haul through your actions” (pg. 105). Be faithful to show love, even when you don’t feel it, and the emotion will follow. Be intentional in your relationship, and don’t give up on it.
It may take some time to find yourself comfortable with your “new normal”, but be confident that joy will return.
Perhaps you are a young parent, far from sending kids off to college. Just as you are preparing your kids to be independent, you can prepare yourself for an “empty nest”. Everyone says it goes by so fast, but in the middle of sleepless nights, mountains of laundry, piles of dirty dishes and endless noise, you don’t believe it. Cherish every moment with your kids, but make your marriage your top priority. Invest in your spouse during the years of child-rearing. Plan date nights to re-connect and carve out time every day to talk about your day. Say “I love you” at least once a day!
Whether you are approaching the “empty nest”, in the middle of finding your “new normal”, or in the early stages of parenting, remember that the future is full of hope. The end of one stage is the beginning of a new one. Find the adventure in it!