Advice on when to let go of adult children

Letting go of adult children is one of the greatest challenges a parent faces in life.   Having dedicated several decades to raising and nurturing your children, it might be difficult to adjust to an empty nest once they are grown and independent.

For so many years you were the pivotal person in your children’s lives; their primary teacher and mentor. Suddenly they have interests and relationships that don’t include you. Establishing new ground rules and boundaries in your parent/child relationship is a must, if you are to maintain a close bond of mutual respect with your adult children.

Trying to hang on to the old ways of interacting with your children after they have become adults and created a life independent from you, could potentially drive a wedge between you, with your adult children resenting your refusal to treat them as adults.

Letting go of your adult children:

Accept your adult children’s independent lives

Accept that you will not be in constant communication with your adult children. As they go about their busy lives, there will be less and less time for sharing confidences, lively chats and frequent visits. Adopt a routine of emailing, weekly phone calls and occasional invitations to visit. Let family traditions be a vehicle for retaining strong familial bonds. Plan well in advance of holidays and special occasions. Extend invitations with no obligation attached. If your children are married, there is another family to consider when they are making holiday plans. You will be all the more appreciated if you do not impose guilt.

Embrace your adult children’s choices

Refrain from criticizing the choices your adult children make in careers. Even when your adult children do not choose paths that live up to your expectations, keep in mind that it is their lives to live. Also, keep in mind that your approval is still important to them, and your disapproval will wound their spirits and create estrangement. Treat your adult children with the same consideration and respect that you would dear friends. When your adult children choose marriage partners, be supportive and welcoming. You have the best reason to feel great affection for these new members of the family, for they are taking up where you left off, nurturing and loving your children. Instead of looking at your adult child’s significant other as an interloper, think of him/her as a new addition to the family circle. Avoid putting your child in a position of having to choose between loyalty to you and loyalty to his spouse. Such inappropriate emotional behavior will result in you losing the respect of your adult child.

Get back in touch with your own life

So many desires are often relegated to the back burner while raising children. An empty nest means having time and energy to dedicate to interests and hobbies long neglected. Reacquaint yourself with your spouse. All the demands and responsibilities inherent in childrearing could potentially have resulted in you taking each other for granted. You have a fresh opportunity to rekindle the spark that brought you together in the first place. Renew old friendships, go back to school, volunteer, focus on your career; the options to explore are endless. Children leaving the nest is not the end, but rather the beginning of a new and exciting era of your own life.

Redirect your nurturing spirit

An empty nest does not mean the end of nurturing. Satisfy that need to be needed by nurturing and ministering to your elderly parents, neighbors or extended relatives. Volunteer at a homeless shelter or nursing home. Become a big brother or sister to an underprivileged youth. There are myriad opportunities to express your generosity of spirit in your family and community. Most importantly, nurture yourself. Exercise, eat well, get plenty of rest and indulge your favorite pastimes to ensure that you are physically and mentally fit.

By redefining your relationship with your adult children, you are apt to have a more satisfying and fulfilling experience of your own and your children will view your enthusiasm for life with respect, and gratitude that you succeeded in letting go with grace.