What are we going to do with our lives when our child leaves home? We have spent a large portion of our lives giving, caring, protecting, carpooling, scheduling and teaching…Now what?
In the next nine months many young adults will be going off to college. Many parents will be asking; what now? Many parents, mothers in particular, are finding themselves without purpose. They have spent the better part of their lives tending to children as intensely as career people do their jobs. Now, these same parents are about to lose their job and the relationship as they know it with their child.
Transitions are often difficult at best. One of the realizations is that the sadness or even resentment you may have about your child leaving is really about you. You have spent a lot of sweat and tears raising an adult. Not raising a child. As an adult he is supposed to separate and create a new type of relationship with you.
One of the best things you can do for your child is to get refocused. Let him establish his own terms for keeping in touch with you. He is the one who has to make most of the major adjustments. New housing, new friends, new responsibility and new challenges are before him. Just as it should be before he takes his final step into full-blown adulthood. College is a great intermediary step. It offers freedom with boundaries; a safety net.
Helicopter parents – those who hover over their child – are sending a message that the child can’t do it alone. The other side of that message is that the parent has lost her own identity.
The challenge for both you and your young adult is to get out into this new world and conquer it. Parents need to make new friends with whom to spend their extra time. Find a place to volunteer or get a part time or full time job. Mentor other parents in the raising of their children. Focus on something outside of yourself and find a new purpose. If you are married, one of the best things you can do is to focus on your spouse. Spouses tend to put the needs of their children out in front. Now it’s time to reclaim your precious time together. Enjoy the extra time you’ll now have and give a little more attention to each other.