While I have been busy dealing with the expansion of our family unit, others moms in my circle have been preparing for the empty nest phase. I can’t imagine another transition that comes with more stress or emotion.
Today’s young people are growing up at such a fast pace. Parents are having to educate themselves on how to best prepare their offspring for life in the “real world,” even as the world evolves faster than most of us can comprehend.
As a Parent Educator, I work with parents of young children, for the most part. Their main concerns are trying to help their kids become more responsible and respectful, hoping to instill these qualities at a young age so that when the time comes for their kids to head out on their own, they’ll be perfectly capable of taking care of themselves and dealing with issues as an independent adult.
It’s certainly not easy.
Dr. Brad Sachs, a psychologist and father of three young adults, has written a book on Emptying the Nest, a book that is meant to reach parents before their children are launched into the world, unprepared.
In his clinical practice, Dr. Sachs realized that it was fairly common for young adults to unsuccessfully make the transition to independent life and his book serves to encourage parents to help their tweens and teens become more competent and resilient.
In analyzing this cultural phenomena through his own case studies, Dr. Sachs discusses the role of smaller family size, suggesting it may result in more helicopter parents:
Raising fewer children more easily creates the possibility of focusing too intently on those children, which in turn makes their eventual emancipation more involved and emotionally fraught for everyone involved.
These type of parents show uncertainty and ambivalence when it comes to striking the optimal balance between support and enabling, between care and overprotectiveness.
Modern technology is a contributing factor as well:
These perpetual electronic umbilical cords [instant messaging, text messages, email, video chat] can work against the process of separation…particularly when the young adult is feeling insecure about his capacity to strike out on his own.
Financial independence is also a challenge for many young adults, especially with the economy taking a turn for the worse over the last few years. “Tough economy or not…young people have simply not been expected to practice financial self-sufficiency and restraint during their adolescence, which hobbles their capacity to do so as young adults.”
Dr. Sachs goes on to discuss the developmental stages of letting go and exactly how parents can help prepare their young adults for true independence.
We see our children at various points in their development through the lens of how we remember ourselves when we were their age. And we nurture them according to how we were raised when we were at that stage.
I strongly advise parents to think back on their early adulthood with as much accuracy and objectivity as they can so that they operate with as much flexibility as possible, rather than unconsciously repeating old patterns, or reflexively opposing them.
In addition, it is worthwhile to consider being more honest with your young adult regarding what your life was like when you were his age.
He devotes an entire chapter on the relationship between mom and dad at this stage of their children’s lives:
While we tend, as mothers and fathers, to pay very careful attention to how our child-rearing behaviors affect our children’s development, we tend to minimize or even ignore how our marital behaviors affect our children’s development and the interaction between our lives as couples and as parents.
The relationship between a husband and wife can have an enormously positive or negative impact on a young adult’s efforts to separate and become self-sufficient.
With each stage of our children’s lives comes new challenges but I’m excited to know that there are great resources available for parents at every one of them. And knowing that focusing on my relationship with my husband will benefit all of us is even more encouraging.
I’m scheduling our monthly Date Night now just to keep us on track for the long – and exciting – journey ahead.
Happy Healthy Hip Parenting
Peace Begins in the Home