Dear Mom Who is Letting Go This Fall,
Have you shed a few tears? If so, that’s normal. You spend 18 years with them and then they have the nerve to leave. They want to go to college or get an apartment of their own. It’s not easy “letting go” after investing so many years of blood, sweat, and tears.
Have you done the happy dance? If so, that’s normal. You’ve worked hard for this new freedom you’re about to experience! You will have one less mouth to feed at meals, one less to do laundry for, and one less to think about on a daily basis. If you’re letting go of the youngest or an only, you’re going to get a glimpse into all the freedom and possibilities the empty nest season can offer.
Have you alternated between tears and the happy dance? That’s normal, too. There’s a rollercoaster of emotions that happen when you’re learning to let go. One minute you may feel relieved and another minute you may feel fearful. Some mommas throw feelings of guilt into that rollercoaster ride—if that’s you, I want to encourage you to let the guilt go. You’ve done your best. There’s no way you could ever teach them everything they need to know. There are just some things learned best by living on your own in this world.
No matter what you are feeling, you’re embarking on a new normal for your family. Your home is a launching pad and leaving successfully is the ultimate goal. As a mom who’s launched five kids into adulthood, I’ve found some valuable perspective over the years about letting go. Here are some important lessons I’ve learned along the way:
- See this as the beginning it is, not the end. Sure, the season of raising this child is coming to a close, but the next season is a fabulous one. You are watching your child become more of who he or she is created to be. There is a whole new world of relationship before you!
- Expect things to change. Your young adult now has a life outside of your family and a world of their own to manage. If home, invite them to join your family in activities you used to do together, but be prepared that they may have other plans or priorities. This is especially hard for moms because we like to do things together as a family. However, your young adult is making important steps of independence and making their own choices is one of those steps.
- Take your connecting cues from your child. Some kids leave home and naturally make a connection with mom or dad daily. Others you’ll barely hear from. Both are okay. If your young adult doesn’t connect at least once a week, send a text or give them a call just for a quick connect. This lets them know you’re thinking of them and want to stay connected. It’s also nice to send care packages every once in a while.
- Don’t be surprised that you will no longer know their every move. One dad shared with me that he and his wife were at a local high school football game. Their son—a freshman in college—had played football in high school so dad took a picture of the field and send it to his son just to let him know they were thinking of him. After a few minutes the son texted a thank you back and then said that he was actually at the game too. His parents had no idea he’d made the trip home for the game! This happens. It’s normal. It’s common to go home with the roommate for the weekend or to come home without telling you because they found a ride at the last minute. You will no longer know their every move—this is an adjustment you may need to make in your own expectations.
- Move into a coaching/accountability partnership. If you’re paying for your child’s school or still supporting them in some way, you still can call the shots to some extent. This is a perfect time for you to truly let the natural consequences happen. Resist stepping in for grades or issues at school. One family, who was paying for a portion of their son’s school, set a B average expectation for attending/living on campus at his college of choice. If he didn’t have a B average, the expectation was that he would return home and attend community college. After his first year which was spent partying more than studying, they held him accountable and his sophomore year was spent living at home attending community college. He wasn’t happy at first, but actually thanked his parents later for holding him accountable.
- Move from curfew to communication. When your college student comes home for the holidays or the occasional weekend, it can be hard for them to assimilate back into the family routine. Your tendency will be to want to treat them like you did before they went off to college. In an effort to show them that you recognize their newfound freedom and want to trust their decision-making, tell them you want to move to a communicating place. Simply ask for respectful communication about their schedule so you know how many you’re cooking dinner for and what their general plans are for the evening. Ask them to push this info to you rather than making you pull it from them. This puts them in the driver seat of communication instead feeling like you’re asking them twenty questions.
- Keep praying. Your young adult needs you to continue to stand in the gap for him or her. Pray for friendships, decisions, and the roommate relationship. Pray for leadership qualities to rise to the top and for skills to be sharpened. Pray for networking opportunities, passions to be identifies, and interests to be discovered. If your young adult still doesn’t know what career path they want to take, pray for wisdom, discernment, and discovery to bring clarity over the next couple of years.
Change is hard, good, challenging, and wonderful all at the same time. As you send off your young adult into a new step of independence, you’re on the edge of relating to your child in a beautiful, new way. Oh there will likely be some challenges along the journey, but if you enjoyed their growing up years you can enjoy their adult years just as much and maybe even more!
What about you? Have you launched a kid or two? What lessons have you learned along the way?