Coming to Grips with Empty Nesting

Flying the Nest

It’s that time of year! It’s the end of school, and a new season of change is upon many of you this fall. If you’re about to send your kid(s) off to college and/or become an empty nester, then this post is for you! I’m certainly not an expert at this topic since I’ve only been through it with my oldest boys. But, as I’ve said before, I love sharing what I’ve learned and how I’ve coped in order to help others navigate through the same problems.

I’ve been watching a mama robin on my deck for the last several weeks – she has a nest of 4 babies, so I’ve gotten to watch her nourish and take care of them. I can see they’re just about ready to fly the nest. It’s been therapeutic in a way, because I’m reminded of myself and all other moms – we nurture, feed, make sure our children are safe, and teach them, knowing they will fly the nest someday as well.

I sent two off to college two years ago, and I’ll send my last one off next year. I know it’s cliché, but it really is amazing how time flies – one minute you’re worrying about them scraping their knees, then suddenly you’re sending them to college and worrying about the choices they’ll make as an adult. I will say, it gets easier, but it’s never completely easy. I found myself having a mini meltdown just the other day and crying a bit because I only have one more year with my youngest son.

This can definitely be a traumatic time for mothers. If you’re having a tough time right now, I want you to know that you’ll be ok. The best thing I experienced the summer before my kids left was listening to other moms who went through it recently, and they assured me that what I was feeling and going through was normal. And who doesn’t want to feel normal? So I jotted down some thoughts on things that helped me navigate through the tough transition of sending kids off to college, with the hope of helping you as well.

Leading Up to Departure

One thing that I immediately and deliberately chose to do is that I did not hide my tears. I think it’s healthy for men especially to be ok around emotion. There were many times over the summer where I’d get emotional, and I never apologized for it, but I did assure them that my tears in no way were trying to make them feel guilty about leaving or about being excited for college and their future. I gave them a disclaimer that if and when I cry, it’s not to make them feel guilty, but rather these are tears of joy and I’m just sad to be letting go.

I found it very important leading up to college to have them make their own appointments. Doctor appointments, oil change appointments, whatever it may be…have them start scheduling their own. They should learn independence, so this is a perfect time to start doing it now while you’re there to guide them through it. And if they’re not doing their own laundry yet, make them do that too!

I wanted to make sure my sons stayed connected with family members since they were going pretty far away. So, over the summer, I took them shopping for birthday cards, anniversary cards, and stamps. I sent them to school with a list of family birthdays, anniversaries, etc., so they had a method of communicating and staying in touch with their long-distance relatives. I know our family members loved and appreciated it!

Finally, just know that you will likely start to butt heads with your graduate over the summer. It’s like a struggle of independence starting…they think that since they’re heading to college that they’re already an adult, but in our minds, they are still our babies for those last few months. I think it’s God’s way of naturally separating you early. Be confident that’s a normal thing.

During the Year

Here are some things I do during the school year that help me stay connected to my sons. Now, I’m in no way a helicopter parent, even though some of these may appear that way. This is just my way of staying linked with my kids in their busy lives.

One of my favorite things is the family text thread we started. It’s been going on forever, and we add to it all the time. Every night, no matter what, I always sign off and say goodnight and I love you. It’s a perpetual thing. I like to add goofy emojis too – my boys may roll their eyes at it, but it’s just a silly thing I like to do. And I never delete the thread – I enjoy going back and reading it too much!

I also have a separate text to just my two at college where I ask them what things they need me to pray for. I believe it’s our job as parents to “stand in the gap” for them and pray for them. I’m always putting that out there so they know that while I may be 9 hours away, I’m still always here. They open up to me and tell me about upcoming tests or projects, and I love hearing about it and praying about it for them.

I even started praying for the fraternity that they wanted to join. I always pray for their future spouse. I met my husband at college, and they very well might do the same thing. I’m praying for them to know right away if it’s the right person for them or not. And I pray that they stay connected to a church. I pray that their faith stays strong. Praying for them truly keeps me connected to them.

I also find reasons to send them packages in the mail – books, magazines, whatever I think they might like or need. I think college kids love getting packages. In fact, a group of high school moms and I made care packages for all our kids, and each parent put an item into the boxes. I also recently sent my son a box filled with cans of Steak N Shake chili – it’s one of his favorites, and he can’t find it down there. Care packages are the best way to take care of them from afar.

This idea came to me one day when I was at the campus for orientation. It’s a small thing, but it’s probably something that helps me the most on a daily basis. I immediately grabbed a map of both my boys’ campuses. I keep them by my coffee pot, and each morning, I take the maps and follow my fingers over where they’ll be that day. I tell myself that wherever they walk, He is walking with them. This is more of a feel good for me, but just placing my fingers on the map where they would be walking that day is huge, and makes me feel so connected to them.

Finally, after they’re off and settled at school, just make sure you show your kids that you still have a social life. I think sometimes our kids think we went to college just to be moms. Make sure to show them that they’re ok to fly the nest and spread their wings, because you are still living your life. I think it’s healthy for them to see that.

You Can Do It

If you’ve been through this already, what helped you? Any other tips to cope? I hope my stream of thoughts is helpful to you, as you are navigating through this huge change in your life. I just want to say as a mom who has been there, you’ll get through it.

Soon your kids will say or do things that you’ll take an example from. They’ll start to teach you lessons, and the fruits of your labor will start washing over you, and you will be so thankful. So hang in there, know that they will thrive because of a job well done by YOU, and know that I am here as a shoulder to cry on if you need it!

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2 thoughts on “Coming to Grips with Empty Nesting”

  1. Love these ideas! One thing we do with our son is FaceTime on Sunday evenings. I love seeing his face and going through his week.

    • I don’t do that enough with them. I want to start doing “zoom” conference computer calls with them and including Joseph on the call. That way we can all see each other’s faces.

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