Empty-Nest Parenting

Empty-Nest Parenting  

by Karen Seyfert

My mother is traditional; she made raising three girls her life for 25 years. She chaperoned nearly every field trip, assisted at Santa’s workshop and brought cupcakes to school for our birthdays when we were in elementary school. She canned peaches, sewed matching dresses for Easter and drove us up the hill with the snowmobile so we could sled.

Just a few months ago my parents faced new emotions as their roles of mother and father changed forever. Their last daughter left home.

Phone calls don’t quite compare with a smile. E-mail doesn’t measure up to the sound of a strong laugh. And cooking loses some of its charm when dinner’s just for two.

As I worried that my parents might feel less needed, I knew their roles hadn’t ended; they had changed. I still needed my mother and father — just as most young people still need their parents after they move out. So parents, here’s how you can bless your grown children:

Be a joyful example

About a month before my younger sister graduated, I noticed that my mother’s usually bright presence dimmed. Seeing a parent’s joy decrease can be painful for children, although it’s nice for children to know they’ll be missed. While grieving the loss is natural, show your young adults how to handle change. Spend time with the Lord; with Him you’ll be filled with joy (Psalm 16:11).

Young adults face many challenges and instabilities as we go into the world. We need our parents to be an example of how to rely on God in everything.

Serve others

View the extra time as a gift. When was the last time you could participate in a new ministry?

Open your home to others. Is there a teen who could use your insight and listening ear? My mentor’s last child recently graduated from high school. But for the past two years, my mentor has invested in me and given me an example of a heart always willing to serve the Lord, no matter what the season.

Offer advice sparingly

As much as you want to keep telling your children what to do, young adulthood is the time for us to learn by experience and make independent decisions. Trust the words of Solomon: “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

We’ll make mistakes, but within a few years, we’ll learn to ask for your wisdom. Until then, if you advise us too much, we will feel like we’re being treated as children.

Pray faithfully

My mom regularly asks how to pray for me. Without her prayers, I doubt my days as a second-year English teacher would go as well as they do.

Live purposefully

Create a new mission statement for yourself. Perhaps your old one was to raise your children to love God and serve Him.

Develop a new statement or revise your previous one. Who knows what plans God has for this next season of your life? Your children will be encouraged as they see you trust and serve God despite the changes in your life.

John Winthrop, the puritan adventurer to America in 1630, began his voyage at the age of 40 and spent the remainder of his years establishing the New World. Mother Teresa was 69 when honored with the Nobel Peace Prize. Billy Graham had to wait until he was in his 60s to preach behind the Iron Curtain.

Rose Sims, another mentor of mine, writes a great truth about aging in her book New Life For Dying Churches: “You are old when you have no more vision, ignore the youth and feel the good old days were better than tomorrow.”

Pray for us as we enter new horizons, but trust that God cares about our well-being more than you do. And most important, let God’s purpose for this new phase of your life drive you forward.

Karen Seyfert is an English teacher in Lebanon, Pa.

This article appeared in Focus on the Family magazine.
Copyright © 2005 Focus on the Family.
All rights reserved. International copyright secured.