8 Parenting Tips from a Future Empty Nester
Cross country U-Haul trips are starting to be a regular occurrence with our family, and today was no exception. This morning Tim left with our daughter, Brook, for Galveston, Texas, which will be her new home for at least the next six years during her residency program at the University of Texas Medical Branch. As of today, three out of our five children are living in other states. Sean is in Arizona, Erica is in Florida, and now Brook will be in Texas. (All nice places to visit, if I might add!)
Sean’s move from Florida to Arizona Erica’s move from Indiana to Florida
Brook’s move from Indiana to Texas
As we said our goodbyes this morning before Tim and Brook headed out on their newest adventure, I held back the tears like I did with the other two when they left. Tim said, “Isn’t this what we are supposed to do? Raise them well and send them on their way?” Yes, it is, but it’s never easy. And I think this time was especially hard because Erica happened to be home for a long weekend and we just sent her back to Florida on Tuesday.
But, God’s timing is perfect and when I returned home and sat down to do my devotion after seeing them off, I read the following words in Ecclesiastes 3:
There is a time for everything in a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant in a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance…
I see in this text that we’ve done our job in planting good morals, strong work ethic, and independence in our children. Sometimes a little too much independence, but it’s all good. We’ve planted and now it’s time to uproot…it’s time to let them go. There is a time for everything and the seasons of our lives constantly change and this just happens to be a new season. In the fall we will move Jarod to college, but he’ll only be about 30 minutes away. Jordan just graduated college and is home for a while. I’m trying to convince her to stay home for about a year to save money before moving on. Who knows where that will lead, but if she has her wishes, she will not be staying in Indiana.
So why am I telling you all of this? It’s to lead up to some unwarranted parenting advice from a future “empty nester”. Here are 8 things you need to know:
DNA doesn’t determine family….your heart does.
We are a blended family, but I claim all 5 kids as my own.
Don’t try to be your kids’ friend when they’re young.
There will be plenty of time for that later when they are adults. In the meantime, you are their parent and it’s your job to set boundaries.
Make time to be with your kids. Attend their ball games and sporting events even it you don’t understand the rules. Go to their dance recitals and cheer competitions even if you can’t stand glitter and tears.
Make family dinners a priority.
I realize that this may not be possible every night, but try your best to have family meals together as often as possible. And, while we’re on this subject, add a no phones at the table policy! Conversation is a lost art.
Get to know their friends.
We have always encouraged our kids to invite their friends over. You can learn a lot about your kids by the people they choose to befriend. Plus, you know they’re all in a safe place.
Help your kids find their strengths and interests.
Try to help them discover what they are truly passionate about and help them to develop those interests. Some of the strengths shown even as children can lead to their future career.
Love unconditionally and be affectionate.
Yes, there will be times when our children disappoint us. Yes, they will make mistakes. This doesn’t mean that you still shouldn’t show them love. Jesus has every reason in the world to kick us to the curb, yet he still loves us unconditionally as his children. When your child hugs you, never be the first one to let go.
Buy stock in a moving truck rental company.
If you have lots of kids, especially if they are independent, this might not be a bad idea. I can’t even count on two hands the number of times we’ve moved our kids in and out of college dorms and new homes.