I love the title. I borrowed it from a section of a chapter in How To Really Love Your Adult Child: Building a Healthy Relationship in a Changing World by Ross Campbell and Gary Chapman. Even though I love my kids and am enjoying having two emerging adult children at home, there are some unique aspects to the relationship. Ross and Chapman give some good advice about thriving in the unempty nest. The whole book is worth the read, but for the subject of this post, I want to highlight a few suggestions they make regarding the nest:
Maintain open communication. Communication is essential in any relationship. For parents, we must listen well. Hear the ideas, thoughts, and feelings expressed by your child. How can we expect an emerging adult child to hear a parent when a parent intentionally or unintentionally discounts what they’re thinking or feeling?
There needs to be a balance in freedom and responsibility. I don’t believe that you can treat your emerging adult child like he/she is in junior high or even high school. That’s a space conversation. At the same time, this becoming adult should help in the welfare of the household. Assistance could include rent, utility and grocery contributions or at a minimum, it involves help with household chores and general upkeep. There’s a balance here between freedom and responsibility. Parents want to give space, but an emerging adult child should contribute appropriately to the welfare of the home.
The moral values of the parents should be honored. While values differ between parents and their children, a parent has the right to ask the adult child living at home to respect their values while living at home.
Parents should consider their own physical and mental health as it relates to the residency of the emerging adult. Realize your limitations and take care of yourself physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally. Some things are worth fighting about; other things you’ll just need to let go.
There should be set limits and goals. No matter whether an adult child is a struggler or a planner, there should be limits, and appropriate agreed upon goals regarding their residency. How long will the child live at home? What markers need to be achieved as one works toward sustainable independence? This gets everyone on the same page. I think we all realize that at times some goals will need to be renegotiated.
Here’s to parenting well the unempty nest.