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Celebrate the empty nest

Updated: Aug 23, 2023

When children start leaving the house, that change can become a challenge, even for someone who handles change well. It was fairly smooth sailing when my first child left home. I waved from our driveway as he drove away and went inside to wipe away some tears, but life quickly settled back into regular routines. It helped that the first child was consistent about calling home!

empty nest

But the second child . . . well, we left him! He stood in the same driveway where I stood when the first child left and waved cheerfully at me as I drove the last loaded vehicle toward our family’s new home 300 miles away. That just felt wrong, as though I was abandoning him!

Every child’s flight from the nest is a little different, and some are harder on us moms than others. Based on my experiences of waving goodbye to four kids (one more than once), let me offer four suggestions that can help make the transition feel more natural for both you and your kids.

Have a family meeting. In the last few weeks leading up to your child’s departure, get the whole family together to discuss what life will look like going forward. Let each family member express their appreciation for the child who is leaving, talk over new chore assignments, plan holiday visits, and discuss how you will communicate when you are separated. Talk over your expectations for how the family will function in its new form, and let all the family members work together to solve any logistical problems. The child who is leaving will be blessed with a sense of their importance to the family and everyone will understand that apart doesn’t mean not a part!

Ask for prayer requests. Spend a few minutes asking your child how you can pray for her. You might not get a deep answer, but honor her thoughts and feelings anyway. Write each request down and make a commitment to pray daily. You can follow up in a few weeks and ask for more prayer ideas once she gets settled in the new place.

date night

Go on a date with your husband. Less children in the home means more time for the two of you! Celebrate that benefit with a special night out before your child leaves, and spend some time discussing how you can enrich your relationship as a couple—not just as mom and dad. Make a list of activities you would like to do together, get out your family calendar, and add those activities to the calendar while you are still on that date! You can look forward to those activities when you are missing your young adult.

family celebration

Make it a party! In the last few days before your child leaves home, have a special family dinner or take him to his favorite restaurant. Top the night off with a symbolic gift—maybe a Bible or a journal or a book of wisdom and advice—and celebrate that your child is ready to take this important step toward maturity. Keep it positive and make it an evening he will remember when reality sets in in a few weeks and life feels a little more challenging. Your child will know you are proud of him and that will encourage him to keep going!

The emptying nest can cause tears, spark fears, and even create uncomfortable conversations about money and expectations, but don’t forget to carve out time for positive connections and celebrations. Celebration feels counterintuitive because there is grief involved in having a child leave home and make her way in the wide world. But if your child is ready to take those first steps toward independence, you should feel proud of her and of your efforts, too! This is an appropriate and important milestone in the life of a child when they reach young adulthood. Husband Jack and I always reminded ourselves that we were raising adults, not perpetual children. It helped us miss them less!

empty nest bible verse
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So if your child is leaving home this fall, congratulations, Mom and Dad! You deserve some accolades and so do they. Make some time to celebrate and you will discover that the transition can be a strengthening experience for the whole family.


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