Happy empty nesters?

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

March 18, 2008 Ed Cartoon

A recent University of Missouri sociological study interviewed 142 couples with children in the transition of leaving the family home.

Researchers were surprised to note that the feelings of these “empty nesters” were largely positive " so much so that the stigma of the empty nest may be mythological.

Very topical for youth leaving home to attend college or university, young adults often find their parents adjusting to an empty home.

While the adjustment can be more dramatic for single-parent families or families with stay-at-home parents, the trend is toward a smoother transition for parents.

Modern families often have a dynamic where both parents work, so mothers and fathers have activities to occupy their day, which helps ease the transition.

Parents certainly miss their children when they are out of the house, but the child’s increased independence generally means the parents have the time and money for much greater freedom in their lives. Most students have anecdotes of their parents taking a vacation, taking up a hobby or renovating the home to keep them busy.

Assuming a couple has a healthy relationship, Mom and Dad will enjoy the extra “alone time” the empty nest provides. It is also an important step for the children " in order to gain independence on the path to adulthood " as well as the parents.

Another important aspect is the changing dynamic of the parent-child relationship once the child leaves. Once you move out, most of us see our parents more as peers and less as authoritarians. A child earns more appreciation of the sacrifices their parents made once they leave the home and tackle adult jobs and concerns.

Certainly, parents get joy out of seeing their children mature. It is important for parents to feel satisfaction about a job well done in regards to childrearing. Also, many parents enjoy serving as a beacon of advice as kids grow up; paying bills, grocery shopping, home rental/mortgages and job applications are all things our parents experienced.

While the empty nest can be an extremely tough transition for certain parents, most working mothers and fathers realize once the kids leave and the financial burden is less, it is time to stop and smell the roses.

Consequently, more and more parents are finding ways to cherish their years together while also appreciating the children’s metamorphosis into an adult.

Regardless, if you feel that you are “too rad for Mom and Dad,” make an effort. Give Mom and Dad a call and see how they are doing. Even if the transition is getting easier, it is still a profound adjustment in our parents’ lives.

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