How to Embrace the Empty Nest

Jan Lashbrook
If you're having trouble coping with your child leaving for college, know you're not alone.

To everything there is a season. A time for every purpose under heaven.
—Ecclesiastes 3:1

We just witnessed Calvary Christian Academy’s 19th class of 160 seniors walk across the stage and receive their diplomas, signaling an end to one season of life and the beginning of another. For the new alumni, many new and exciting adventures await, and most are excited to embrace this new season. But for the parents who are sending them off, it can be an emotionally challenging time; especially if it’s the last child or the only child leaving the nest for the first time.

Empty nest syndrome is a thing. Even though it’s not labeled as a “clinical condition,” it’s still a very real feeling of grief and loneliness parents may feel when their children leave home for the first time. Sometimes it leads to depression and a loss of purpose for parents, because departure from “the nest” requires some real adjustments in parents’ daily routines and lives.
Departure from “the nest” requires some real adjustments in parents’ daily routines and lives.
My husband and I experienced it when our youngest son graduated from CCA and left home for college. He was well-prepared spiritually, academically, and socially during his 12 years at CCA, and although he very ready to take this next step, I wasn’t quite prepared to let him go.

He was the last one to leave our home, and I questioned everything in the months leading up to his departure. Did we adequately prepare him to practically live on his own? Will he continue to maintain a close relationship with God? Will he study when he needs to? Can he even operate a washer and dryer?

I remember reminding him of some great nugget of truth I thought he needed to know (one more time), and his reply was, “Mom, I know. You’ve told me 100 times. I got it!” He really did have it. And my fears were unfounded. He successfully navigated four years of college, grew stronger in his faith, and met his amazing wife there—all without me to help him!
God wants us to prepare our children the best we can for this next step of life, and then release them.
Deuteronomy 11:18-19 gives great guidance on preparing our children for the next season of life: “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

God wants us to prepare our children the best we can for this next step of life, and then release them, pray diligently for them, and allow them to soar. If you’re an empty-nester, the best thing you can do for your children now in this stage of their lives is to let them go.

Although we’ve missed our three kids terribly since they’ve left home for college and marriage, we’ve discovered there are definitely some perks to having an empty nest:
 
  • It’s cheaper to live! Our grocery bill is less painful, our water and electric bills have plummeted, and I’m not in the laundry room nearly as much these days.

  • We can take a trip whenever we want to. We don’t have to worry about leaving our kids behind when we want to spend a weekend away.

  • Once it’s clean, it stays clean! I don’t have to work so hard around the house anymore. We can eat whatever and whenever we want. I don’t cook nearly as much as I used to-and eating less is definitely healthier for our waistlines.

  • We have gotten to know our neighbors again. When you’re busy with your kids’ lives, you don’t always have time to develop relationships with neighbors. We take more walks now, and have the time to visit with those around us.

  • We can invest in ministry more fully. Investing in others eases the pain of missing our children, but more importantly, we are able to more fully engage in God’s story and make a difference for the kingdom without feeling like we’re neglecting our family.

Watching our kids mature, be strengthened in their faith, develop deep friendships with their siblings and gain a new appreciation for the home they grew up in has been rewarding. We also have loved developing new relationships with them as adults and parents, and look forward to the times we spend together in a whole new way. We even get to spoil some grandchildren now. We have embraced the “empty nest” and are loving this new season of life. God is faithful!

 

Jan Lashbrook is the Early Childhood Program  Director at Calvary Christian Academy. She and her husband are “empty-nesters,” having raised three children who are all grown and married. Their youngest attended CCA for 12 years, graduating in 2016.
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