With college just around the corner, parents experience an influx of emotions as their kids gear up to leave the nest.
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 kids leave for college or get married, it can feel 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 for them. We do them a great disservice if we don’t clearly communicate these. 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 values for your children. 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- Your kids 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.
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