Preparing For The Empty Nest

Guest Post

Today’s words of encouragement come from Janet Thompson, an international speaker, freelance editor, and award-winning author of nineteen books including her latest Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s Faithfulness releasing TODAY! 

Her books that often address the pain and problems in life include Dear God, He’s Home!, Dear God, Why Can’t I Have a Baby?, Dear God They Say It’s Cancer, and Praying for Your Prodigal Daughter.  Janet and her husband Dave’s empty nest is nestled in the rural mountains of Idaho.

I thought it was appropriate to share Janet’s wisdom about mentoring and the empty nest today, when I’m offering a one-evening online course for empty-nest or almost-empty-nest moms tonight.  There are only 10 seats left in tonight’s class so you can still join the fun. Reserve your seat here!

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The end of summer is the season when many moms pack kids up and off to college. Sometimes it’s the first one to leave the nest, other times the last, or maybe there was only one chick in the nest. It doesn’t matter. Any child leaving home is painful for a mom.

My Facebook newsfeed was full of moms posting photos of empty bedrooms and new dorm rooms, tearful goodbyes, and heart-breaking laments of leaving their “babies” with “strangers.” But I also loved reading the comforting comments from their Facebook friends who had “been-there-done-that” and knew just how it feels. The experienced moms encouraged the sad moms that they understand their pain, reminded them they raised their child to be independent of them and dependent on God, they’re just a text or phone call away, it will get easier, and the friend will pray for them.

That’s mentoring! It’s that simple even though the experienced moms probably didn’t realize they were mentoring.

Mentor moms can relate to a season they’ve also been through and share what helped them survive it. Someday the hurting mom will mentor another mom sending her chickadee off too. Many of the mentor moms were reminding the sad moms that now her role is to keep praying for her child to stand firm in his or her faith.

Often other children were in the pictures waiting to drive home from dropping off their sibling at college and hoping the parents would remember they were still home and important too. But someday our children will all leave the nest . . . college, marriage, military, or just ready to live on their own.

You know they’ll all do just fine . . . but what about you? How will you survive the empty nest season?

The empty nest can create a huge void in her heart resembling grief—she doesn’t know who she is anymore. Not only is her nest empty, she feels empty. Purposeless. The house is quiet, smaller meals to prepare, only one or two places to set for dinner, groceries last longer, no homework to help with, or music or sports practices or events to attend.

Some women relish this new season to focus on things they want to do: start a new career, hobby, or service project. For others, depression darkens each day—not feeling needed. Some empty-nest moms resort to drugs, alcohol, affairs, divorce, pornography, shopping . . . trying to dull the pain and fill the void only God can soothe, heal, and fill.

This can be especially difficult for a single mom, who finds herself completely alone at home. Now is a good time to find interests outside the home, join a Bible study or singles group at church, and make friends with other empty nest single moms.

A spiritual mentor can help a struggling empty nest mom see her children as God’s divine gift to nurture into godly young adults. She can pray with her to turn her children over to God to use for His purposes and pray for their daily protection, choices, decisions, future, and personal relationships with others and with Jesus, while mom asks where and how God wants to use her.

Here’s What Helped Me Adjust to Our Empty Nest

When our last of four children left home, the first thing I did was buy a new couch. The old one had endured many food stains and yellow highlighter marks. Instead of fussing while the kids were home, I waited to treat myself to a new couch when our nest was empty.

  • Then I wallpapered and painted their bathroom.
  • I finished seminary, which I had started as they began to leave the nest.
  • I answered a call from the Lord to leave my sales and management career to start the Woman to Woman Mentoring Ministry, and then wrote resources to help other churches start a mentoring ministry. Woman to Woman Mentoring is now in 20 years old.   
  • I became a speaker and author. Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s Faithfulness is book number 19.
  • I spent more time with my husband and we traveled.
  • I continued cooking healthy meals. Many empty nesters start eating out, which is typically high salt, high fat, high sugar, too large portions, and expensive. Fortunately, my hubby likes leftovers, or you can freeze.

Usually the empty nest doesn’t come as a surprise; but the emotions you feel might so it’s important to have a plan. If you’re not already working, apply for a job you would enjoy. Start developing a hobby, get involved in ministry, serve in the community, consider downsizing for less housework, socialize, and find a mentor like the mentor moms on Facebook who survived and thrived the empty nest.

And get ready, you’re going to feel the same emptiness when the grandkids come to visit and leave. I find it helps to start vacuuming!

Remember: We don’t find identity in our children; we find identity in our Savior.

What about you? Who can benefit from your wisdom, experience, and perspective? Whose wisdom, experience, and perspective do you need? 

*Portions of this post are excerpted from Mentoring for All Seasons: Sharing Life Experiences and God’s Faithfulness

Save Your Seat for the FREE Parenting Teens Summit!

I’ve always had a passion for helping parents do the best they can! The teen years are particularly difficult, which is why Pam Farrel and I wrote Got Teens? Time Tested Answers for Moms of Teens and Tweens and why Dr. Kathy Koch and I wrote No More Perfect Kids (which applies to younger kids, teens, and even adult kids!)

It seems like culture is changing every day. Teens and pre-teens face tremendous pressure from social media, peers, and even family members.

Parents and grandparents play a significant role in shaping our child’s faith into the future. Imagine learning how to better lead your teen or pre-teen from some of the most informed voices in faith and culture… for FREE.

I’m so excited to announce the FREE 2017 Parenting Teens Summit: Hope hosted by Axis from September 11th through September 30th. 

The Parenting Teens Summit is an online experience designed to help parents of teens thrive. Over 40 different Christian authors and thought leaders are ready to share their unique insight with you.  

I will have a session in addition to other Hearts at Home favorite speakers like Dr. Juli Slattery, Dr. Kathy Koch, Helen Lee, Jerusha Clark, Jim and Lynne Jackson, Karen Ehman, and Lynn Cowell.  Other sessions will be given by Dr. James Dobson, Dr. Paul David Tripp, Craig Gross, Kimm Carr, and Craig Groeschel, among dozens of others!

The Parenting Teen Summit is divided into three different categories:

  • Know Their Culture – Snap what? Selfie? Chance the Rapper? Pop culture, smartphones, media, and entertainment can all help shape your child’s faith if we better understand the digital world around us.
  • Connect the Generations – The Secret Sauce for building a lifelong faith is intergenerational community. The Parenting Teens Summit can help you bridge the generational gap between you and your teen.
  • Develop Their Heart – Teens face huge conversation topics every day at school, with their friends, online, and at work. This category will help you as a parent start important conversations with your teen.

Registration is now open for this FREE Parenting Teens Summit. Save your seat and get ready for September 11th!

(If you’re not a parent of a teen, could you share this with someone you know who is? It’s an incredible opportunity I’d hate for any parent of a teen to miss! Thank you!) 

The Most Complete College Packing Checklist!

FREE PRINTABLE

It was 15 years ago that I packed up my first kid for college. This month will be my last time I’ll do that job.

I’m definitely feeling all the feels with that!

One day I’m excited for the new season ahead. After all, the last kid will be off the Savage payroll! Wahoo!  We can make love in any room of the house at any time of the day! Wahoo! My husband and I can take off and go somewhere on the weekend without worrying about anyone else! Wahoo! I can pursue some of the things I’ve set aside for years because there was a family to raise. Wahoo!

Then other days I have a sadness about me. I’ve enjoyed raising my family. I loved tucking my littles into bed and listening to their heart. I loved those first few minutes after school or sitting at the dinner table hearing about their day. I’ve loved watching my kids grow into beautiful young adults finding their way in this world. I’ve loved nurturing their faith. Oh it’s not been easy, and there were many days I wanted to figure out how I could resign, but still it’s been fulfilling!

If you’re sending one off to college, I’m betting you’re experiencing all the feels, too!

YOU.ARE.NOT.ALONE

Because I’ve done this for a million years (it feels like it!) I have a few tools to help you along the way!

1) Download my brand new FREE College Dorm Packing List! This is an incredibly complete packing list that will help you and your student think through all he/she needs to take to school!


2) Get Amazon Prime or Amazon Prime for Students. This can be a big help when ordering books and dorm items online.

3. Check out some of my previous blog posts about sending kids off to college:

4) Take my online class They All Flew Out Of the Cuckoo’s Nest on Tuesday, September 12, 7:30-9 pm CST! If you’re getting close or embarking on the empty nest, you will definitely want to sign up for this powerful class that I first taught at the April 2017 Hearts at Home conference and received five-star feedback. I’m so glad technology offers a way to bring this to you without leaving your home! Early bird pricing is available until September 1! Register today and invite your empty nest friends to join you!

If you still have littles at home, share this post with a friend or family member who needs it.

And then hold your kiddos a little closer today. Smile when they talk to you. Take a deep breath when they frustrate you. Apologize when you lose it. Say yes when you can and say no when they need it. As my friend Charlene Baumbich put it: Don’t miss your kids…they’ll be gone before you know it!

What Weeding Taught Me About Parenting

I love to weed. 

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

There’s just something about weeding that I find satisfying. Maybe it’s the sense of accomplishment. Maybe it’s playing in the dirt. Maybe it’s being in the midst of God’s creation. Maybe it’s the beautiful flowers, landscaping, and garden produce I get to enjoy when I keep things weeded.

Weeding provides me an incredible quiet time with the Lord. Talking. Listening. Thinking. Praying.

Last week God really spoke to me during my weeding on three different topics. He used my weeding to help me better understand parenting, taking care of my health, and the condition of my heart. Three diverse topics, but all illustrated well in weeding. So over the next few weeks I’m going to share my discoveries! I’ll start today with parenting.

One of my favorite spots for me to enjoy our flowers and garden plants is sitting on the porch swing on our wrap-around porch. From a distance, the lush green plants seem to be healthy and thriving.

Last week, however, I spent some time fertilizing and trimming up some of the garden plants and I discovered some of my plants weren’t as healthy as a quick glance from a distance made them appear. The heat and humidity had brought powdery mildew to the leaves of my yellow squash and cucumber plants. A closer look revealed that my peony plants had it too! I had to begin to give these plants some individual attention to nurse them back to health.

I chose to simply prune the peony plants down to stubs in the ground as they were covered in the mildew.  I remember my Papaw telling me to just mow over the peony plants every year after they were done blooming and they always came up beautifully the next Spring. The squash and cucumber, however, needed some TLC. I mixed 1 tbsp of baking soda with one gallon of water, poured it into a spray bottle and then treated them daily for 3-4 days and every other day after that until it cleared up.

So what’s that have to do with parenting? 

In our book, No More Perfect Kids, Dr. Kathy Koch and I talk about perfection infection parenting. When the perfection infection invades our parenting we have unrealistic expectations of our kids and we unfairly compare our kids to others. This puts pressure on our kids to perform, breeds disappointment and discontentment, and robs the parent/child relationship of joy.

But there’s good news! There are four antidotes that kick the perfection infection right out of our parenting. One of those is PERCEPTION.

As parents, it’s important to be in tune with our kids. What do they like? What do they dislike? Do they need alone time? Are they creative? Athletic? Musical? What is important to them?

I’ll admit that, with five children, there were times when I simply parented “the herd.” I saw them as a group rather than the individuals that they are. It was like looking at the plants from the porch. They looked okay from a distance, you might say.

The more perceptive I became, the more I was able to see them as unique human beings who have different personalities, temperaments, and skills. When I gave them individual attention, I was better able to see where their “leaves” were wilting, where they were struggling, and where they needed a little TLC.

(PHOTO: What I saw from a distance and then what I saw up close.)

Perception increases when life slows down. It expands when we spend one-on-one time with our kids.

Perception not only helps us see how a child is wired, but it also helps us connect with how he or she is doing emotionally. Kids don’t usually walk up to you and say, “I’m sad today.” Instead, they will lash out at a sibling with words or they will withdraw and be unusually quiet. Perception reads the cues a child is sending.

So my weeding last week reminded me to slow down and look closely at how my loved ones are really doing.  In the same way that I couldn’t see the condition of my plant’s leaves until I looked closely, I can’t see the condition of my kids’ hearts until I give them the individual attention they need and deserve…even as the young adults they are today.

What about you? Where do you need to increase your perception? What are you looking at from a distance that you need to be looking at more closely? 

The Two Most Powerful Words in Your Child’s Vocabulary

“I’m bored.”

My two grandkids had been at my house yesterday for less than 18 hours when I first heard those words.

Their parents are on a 10 day mission trip to the Dominican Republic, so we are having “Cousin’s Camp” this week, adding their cousin Marie who lives close by into most of our daily activities.

We have a toy room full of toys, 2.5 acres to explore, and a playhouse their Papaw built them.

Yet still the “I’m bored,” message left their lips sooner rather than later. And they quickly followed it with a request to turn on the television.

In 32 years of parenting and grandparenting, I’ve finally learned the secret of what to do when they utter those two words…

Wanna know what it is?

Nothing.

Do absolutely nothing.

It’s not your job to entertain them.

Yes…respond to their communication with a mix of compassion and inspiration. Yesterday I said no to the request for television and I told them they had so many things to do, suggesting just a few options.

Within ten minutes of uttering I’m bored one was coloring a birthday card for Papaw and the other was playing house in the toyroom. They eventually moved outside to play in the sprinkler for hours and then played, imagined, and pretended the rest of the day. When we suggested they come in and watch a movie before bedtime, they resisted because they wanted to watch the beautiful sunset.

If you have kids at home, don’t be afraid of the “I’m bored” statement. Don’t get pulled into their frustration. Resist the urge to “fix it.” Say no to screens whenever you can. (Of course, there are some days when you’re at the end of your capacity and screens are your friend and that’s okay!)

Let. Them. Be. Bored. Depending on how you respond, those two words can be the most powerful two words a child can say. Allowed to simmer in boredom for a little while will nearly always spark their creativity and launch their imagination. Sure they’ll make your life difficult while you’re holding out for what you know is best for them. But you’re the parent (or the grandparent) and it’s your job to lead them, not allow them to lead you with their emotions.

This is my pep talk for the week that I simply wanted to share with you because I’m guessing I’m not the only one who needs it!

Stand firm. Be the adult. Lead well.

We got this!

Why Routines Are Important For Our Kids

Every afternoon for about 26 years, my kids and I took a break in the afternoon. It started out as naptime, and then became “rest time” when they outgrew naps. As they all got older we just called it “room time.” Everyone to their corners for an hour. They could read, play quietly, listen to music…just as long as they took time for themselves for an hour.

I needed it. They needed it. We all needed the rhythm of routine.

Spontaneity has it’s place. It’s what allows us to be a yes mom. It’s what beckons us to have some unplanned fun. It allows us to take advantage of an impromptu invite to spend the afternoon at the pool.

Routine has it’s place, too. It provides security. It gives healthy boundaries. It can even help regulate emotions.

Our kids need rhythms in their life like bedtime, mealtime, and rest time. They need screen time and no screen time. If they’re school age, during the school year, they need homework time. If they take piano lessons, they need practice time.

Why are routines important? Here are six reasons they need to be valued:

Routines Establish Authority--Our kids need to know who is in charge…and it’s not them. They’re not ready for the responsibility of self-regulating. They don’t have the life experience, knowledge, and emotional maturity. Not only that, they’ll be under authority for the rest of their lives. It’s what keeps our culture civil and makes this country a safe place to be (when things become unsafe, it’s when authority is not respected).  We don’t do our kids any favors by putting them in charge. Sure, there are little things they can choose, and they can take on more responsibility as they get older. However, even when they’re 16 or 17-years-old and yard work needs to happen every Saturday, they’re not likely to step up and offer. They need your accountability and authority to establish and maintain the routines of life that keep your family’s world spinning.

Routines Offer Security–Much of life is unknown. Things change all the time–even a child’s growing body! Then you add in teachers at school, new skills learned in sports or music, and even world events. Children actually handle change better when it’s in the context of a familiar routine.

Routines Offer One-On-One Time With A Child–Whether it’s snuggling and reading a book together before bed every night or having a once a month “date with daddy,” routines give us an opportunity to be make together time happen on a regular basis.

Routines Provide Boundaries–Every child wants to know where the lines are drawn. Of course, they’ll try to cross those lines when given a chance. However, those boundaries can actually eliminate power struggles. When your child knows that the nighttime routine is clean up toys, take a bath, brush teeth, and read a book, they are more likely to operate within those boundaries. They’ll even look forward to doing them and if you have a structured kiddo, they’ll make sure they’re done in the right order every night!

Routine’s Regulate Breaks For Parents–Every parent needs to practice the art of self-care. We can’t take care of others without taking care of ourselves first.  When my kids and I had “room time” it helped them have some personal space in the middle of a summer day. It also gave me–an introvert–some much needed alone time to emotionally refuel and make it through the rest of the day.  Our 8pm bedtime for the kids was important for them to physically get enough shut eye, but it was even more important for Mark and I to have some “we” time for our marriage.

Routines Reduce Stress–When we know what’s coming up we can make the emotional transition needed to move from one thing to the next. This keeps anxiety dialed down for most of us.

Certainly routines need balance with sensitivity. We have to be perceptive to unique situations where routines need to be adjusted like deciding to watch a summer movie in the park which would require a later bedtime for sure.

Yet children thrive on routine. They need the security it provides. And you, as the parent, need it as much as they do.

What about you? What routines have you found helpful? 

10 Summer Activities To Do With All Your Kids!

Summer’s upon us and I’m guessing you’ve already heard at least one “I’m bored” already. If so, I’ve got you covered!  No matter the age of your kids–babies all the way through college age–I’ve got some rock solid ideas to keep things fun this summer!

Just click on the graphic that applies to you!

Got more ideas to add to the mix? Share them in the comments so we can learn from each other!