It doesn't matter how many times you longed for "just a minute" to yourself, free of the clutter, business and stress that often accompany parenting. Now your child is moving on, and you don't want them to go. Sure, there's the upside of your new stage of life: You likely have a little extra time and money on your hands; but then there's the downside: dealing with a host of new emotions you've never experienced before.
If your son or daughter is leaving for college, trade school or just venturing out into her own, a number of questions might be stifling your level of contentment. If so, consider these suggestions to fend off the "my child is leaving home" blahs.
What if I feel old? Until I dropped him off at college, it seemed like "just yesterday" I was a college kid myself. Now, I'm the parent of one. Yikes!
Answer: Rejuvenate. You may (or may not) be cash-strapped after sending the kids to college, but remember, they also bear a responsibility for financing their education. Set aside a few minutes (and a few dollars) and treat yourself to something that makes you feel youthful and carefree. Check out the latest trendy coffee shop with your spouse. Rent a motor home and spend a few days exploring the countryside. Buy a canvas to create the next masterpiece. Who knows, you just may discover a new interest—or a second career.
What if I feel nostalgic? Looking back, ramen noodles and all-night study marathons weren't so awful after all. I'm wishing I could relive my university days! Still, I want to avoid pushing this bittersweet nostalgia onto my freshman son or daughter.
Answer: Connect. Does sending your son or daughter to college cause great campus memories to surface? If so, write them down! Find a method to document and share them with your child. Scrapbooks, series of letters or a photo slide-show are great ways to give your kid a glimpse into college life.
What if I feel guilty? It has been 18 years since I've been able to say, "my time", rather than "my kids' time." But I still feel guilty about sleeping in. Or working in the garden. Or picking up that novel that's been calling my name. Or ….
Answer: Invest in yourself. While selfishness certainly isn't a fruit of the spirit, there isn't anything wrong with enjoying yourself, especially after 18 years of experiencing the parenting gamut—from dirty diapers to driver's licenses. Instead of fretting, dive into that that Great American Novel you've always wanted to write, volunteer at church, start a new business. You just may find yourself a more refreshed parent, spouse and coworker!
What if I feel anxious? Faced with rampant temptation, will my kid make wise choices? And will she be safe? With keg parties, sexual enticement and an increase in campus violence, I'm uneasy.
Answer: Reflect. Danger and temptation surround us all in this fallen world. Think back to some of the dangers and temptations you faced in your younger years. How has God brought you through them? Reflect on His faithfulness, and be open with your children about past struggles.
Why do I feel a loss? All of the sudden, my house is empty. The walls are bare, and so is my heart. Will things ever be the same?
Answer: Survey. Your child may have moved half-way across the country, but he's still your child. Take inventory of the great moments and opportunities God provided you through parenting. And anticipate what you have to look forward to in the coming years – Christmases home from college, trips to see the kids—maybe even grandbabies!
What if I feel frustrated? I worked for 18 years to keep this family protected and together. Now, I'm relocating a part of it hundreds of miles away. This isn't what I had in mind.
Answer: Vent. Don't keep all of your feelings bottled up inside, and remember that these feelings you're experiencing are quite common. View this as an opportunity to reconnect with God, as well as your spouse. Find a group of parents – from your kid's high school, youth group, etcetera – who are experiencing similar feelings.
What if I feel purposeless? When I first married, I found my identity as a spouse. When I had a child, I found my identity as a parent. What do I do now?
Answer: Pray and seek to grow in Christ. Ask God to give you a new-found sense of purpose in life, and seek out opportunities to serve others – at a local youth shelter, retirement home or your church. Mentoring other kids, visiting shut-ins or becoming a student of your spouse can help you feel refreshed and unleash a rediscovered zest for life. Opportunities may abound right in front of you!