Reflections from an Empty Nest
Archetype Wealth Content Team | October 17 2018
With the holiday season just around the corner, we have turned our focus here at Archetype toward family. Our mission is to help families thrive over generations. However, the current reality is that many families are not thriving and younger generations are struggling. Parents want their money to have a positive impact on their kids and legacy but that doesn’t always happen. This reality inspired our upcoming event entitled "How Thriving Families Cultivate the Next Generation". While planning and preparing for this event, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own family’s journey.
Our son left for college in 2012 and our daughter in 2013. They both finished in four years, met their soulmates in college and were married shortly after graduation and are now working hard establishing their own lives. Needless to say, our family has experienced a lot of change over these past 6 years. The house is now empty (except for a 10-year old, white-faced yellow lab) which prompts me to share some hope and reflections to those who might just be entering this phase. Just remember, there is pain in change but also purpose in pain.
Like many of you, raising kids has been the greatest joy, challenge, adventure, project and ministry I’ll ever have. When they left for college and got married, it felt like the end of an era. I know I worried way too much and often felt sad during this season. However, as I humbly look back, I can also identify a few things we managed to do right that helped our kids smoothly transition into adulthood:
- Communicate Expectations – When we send our kids out into the world, we have hopes and dreams and expectations for them. We do them a great disservice if we don’t clearly communicate these and then follow through when they fall short. Adult life isn’t easy but none of us would trade it for being beholden to someone else for the rest of our lives. Take the time to articulate your expectations for your children and keep them accountable. This will help them stay focused and motivated on the right things during this time of transition.
- Understand Distancing- Your kids instinctively distance themselves from you as they prepare to leave the nest. Just at the moment you want to cling, their survival instincts tell them to create distance in an effort to become more emotionally independent. My advice is to not take this personally but follow their lead and be strong together. Keep the mood light, fun and winsome. You may shed a few tears together, but call it what it is, hug it out and keep putting one foot in front of the other. This is healthy behavior.
- Enjoy the Ride- The final years leading up to college are filled with myriad details and errands all geared toward giving them a great start at an accredited university in a properly furnished dorm so they can become successful people. You will have silly arguments about the right comforter color and which shower shoes are the best. Keep your sense of humor during all of it and embrace this precious time together because it doesn’t get better. Lots of laughter through tears happens and the beginning of you becoming adult friends.
- Expect Challenges- Both of my children had to get stitches on their face during their respective first weeks of college. This is not a joke. They have the scars to prove it. As awesome and smart and talented as all of our kids are, they are going to get a flat tire at some point during college. A roommate might not work out, their major might be wrong or they might come home convinced they are at the wrong school. Don’t freak out. It will be ok. This is your opportunity to come alongside them with love, counsel, patience, encouragement and advice while they devise a solution. The temptation as parents is to rescue them and keep them safe as they struggle but a bird needs to use its wings if it’s going to fly solo.
- Embrace Transition- Whether you are launching your first or your last child, you will experience a period of loss and grief. It is painful letting them go but we help our kids transition well when we embrace the changing relationship and model healthy behavior. The temptation might be to hover, over-communicate and be a helicopter parent, continuing to make decisions for them from afar. These activities might make us feel needed but they can also rob our kids of the autonomy and confidence they need to become independent, self-sufficient adults.
It would be a blatant lie if I told you I didn’t miss my kids every day. However, the good news in all of this is that you never stop being a parent and they never stop needing you. The hope I want to share is that having a healthy adult relationship with your kids is one of the greatest joys in life. Looking back, I feel profound gratitude for the wisdom we were given during these pivotal years with our children. I know that wisdom helped shape and form the relationships we have today. Just remember, there is pain in change but also purpose in pain.
Archetype exists to help families thrive across generations by connecting their money with their purpose.
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