Later today, I’ll be dropping my daughter off for the start of her junior year of college, and my wife and I will be entering the empty nest. (Last week, we dropped our son off for his freshman year of college.) While I’m sad to say goodbye to my kids knowing their return home will never quite be the same, I’m extremely excited by this next step in our journey together.
Many people talk about the empty nest with negativity. People imply that life is almost over when the kids leave the house. Or people wonder out loud about how spouses will handle each other without the barrier and distraction of children.
The empty nest doesn’t have to be a scary thing. In fact, there are things you can do today to better prepare yourself for the empty nest.
6 Things You Need to Do Today to Prepare for the Empty Nest
- Date your spouse while your kids are under your roof. Many parents fall into the trap of making their parenting more important than their marriage. This is a big mistake. When we get married, we commit – we promise – to live life together for the rest of our lives. When your kids leave the house (as they should at some point), you don’t want to find yourself living with a stranger. Continue to get to know your wife. Continue to have fun together. Continue to grow closer. Leanne and I have a weekly date night. This has been a great way to help prepare us for the empty nest.
- Parent your children with purpose. Too many parents make the mistake of trying to be their child’s best friend instead of people their mom or dad. Also, many parents miss out on the importance of preparing their kids to leave the nest. Talking to your kids about life after high school or college is important. Kids need to understand the expectations you have for them as they get older. Talking about these expectations, modeling expected behaviors, and establishing appropriate boundaries are all critical parts of parenting with purpose and of preparing for the empty nest. Leanne and I have intentionally approached our parenting aiming our kids at the target and launching them well-equipped to leave the nest and contribute to this world.
- Invest in your marriage. Beyond dating your spouse, you need to make regular investments in your marriage. Find a mentor couple or two who are ahead of you in their married lives and take time to learn from them. Spend money and take time to get away on a regular basis to connect with each other, to discuss goals, and to assess progress. Go to a marriage retreat or conference (ie. Family Life Weekend to Remember) to learn from marriage experts. Sign up in a marriage class like Dynamic Marriage (Leanne and I are getting ready to lead our next Dynamic Marriage class, and spots are still available). Leanne and I have done a lot of things to invest in our marriage, and we will continue to do these things as we enter the empty nest. Our marriage is worth it!
- Invest in yourself. I’m a father, and I’m a husband. I’m also me. Our identities are complex. While you will always be a father if you have kids, that part of your identity will change as the kids leave the nest. It’s important to learn and grow (to STRETCH) as an individual. I’m doing this through reading, through podcasts, and through mastermind groups. In a few weeks, I’ll be launching the next semester of the Stretched Men Group – a mastermind group for men. If you are a man, consider signing up. This is a great way to invest in yourself and to help you prepare for the empty nest.
- Plan ahead. Don’t get to the empty nest without plans for the future. Leanne and I have been making plans for doing things together to have fun, to contribute to our church and community, and to position ourselves for further steps in our married lives. We’ve created a “Dream Board” to document some of our bigger goals for the future. If you want to prepare for the empty nest, plan ahead for what you will do once the kids leave the nest.
- Pray. Don’t underestimate the importance of praying together about the future. Pray for your kids. Pray for their future spouses. Pray for your spouse. Pray for your future together. God wants to be part of your marriage. Pray that God would prepare you for the empty nest.
When you take these steps, you too can enter the empty nest with enthusiasm, hope, and excitement. Don’t wait for the kids to say goodbye, take action today to get ready for the empty nest!
What action do you need to take to prepare for the empty nest? Share your thoughts in the comments below.