Children leaving home
A child spreads their wings and prepares to leave the family nest, as all children must. This is a painful process for everyone, but surviving well in adulthood depends upon a healthy break away from our primary caregivers.
Children leave, in order that they may return. They will not return as a child, but as an independent young adult, who, like us, will make their mistakes. We watch them and run in to pick up the pieces when they ask for help, but mostly we distance ourselves and endure the wrenching time as they pull away, in the face of our overwhelming need to continue to nurture and love them at close quarters. Loving them unconditionally, we have kept them safe and secure, nourishing them both physically and emotionally, and now it is time to allow them to do this for themselves. Our gift to our children.
Did our own parents know best when we were moving through this transition? Unlikely. We were moved to make this journey on our own, and in so doing allowed ourselves the luxury of learning from each mistake along the way. This is how we have evolved into the person that we are.
Coping with an empty nest
No one ever said being a parent is easy. It is not! As loving parents, we find ourselves feeling rejected, and somehow of no further use, which plays into our feelings of insecurity, but it is our responsibility to deal with these feelings.
Of course, we will feel the urge to punish the offending child who appears to have introduced these feelings in us. However, if this is perceived, it can only hinder the process, as our child experiences a confused concoction of guilt and shame that manifests as anger and resentment, and so the ante is upped. But if we can remind ourselves that these unwelcome feelings of rejection and injustice belong to us, we will reap the benefits of this understanding, and will more easily be able to see beyond to the time when we will relate as adults.
They will always be our children, and we their parents, but our interactions will speak of maturity in attitude towards one another borne of love, of acceptance, mutual respect and understanding.
The joy of having adult children is immense. Of course, we will miss those carefree times when we kissed them goodnight before turning out the light and then tiptoed downstairs to pack away the toys and ponder on the simple things their day had brought us. But our love for them remains undiminished, as they forge their own paths through life, and return sometimes to kiss us and help us tidy up after their time spent here in our home.
This journey cannot be hurried. It can inspire a lot of self-examination in a parent, coupled with a lot of self-doubts. It often coincides with some changes that are going on at the same time, such as coming to terms with ageing, caring for an elderly relative, illness, being made redundant, and more. These other factors can make it doubly hard to stand strong, but talking to someone can be immensely helpful.
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