I think there are several moving parts with this whole empty nest communication topic. It can really keep you on your toes! The pandemic only makes things more complicated; more things to talk about.
First…there’s communication for the people left IN the nest.
Then…there’s communication WITH the people who LEFT the nest.
Two very different classic empty nest issues.
I don’t know about you, but my husband and I find ourselves calling out…OK…shouting at each other, trying to have a conversation. We can’t tell where the other one is in the house, and often, can’t hear what each other is saying. So there’s a lot of “what?” and “I can’t hear you!”
Yes…we’ve resorted to texting each other in the house on occasion. The easiest way with the bedroom doors closed pretty much all of the time.
The kids text us too…gotta love those bathroom texts requesting more toilet paper, lol.
Then, there’s the whole issue with actually communicating WITH the adorable big birds who have left the nest.
Or in our case, they haven’t completely left.
They’re gone for a few months, and then back. Home for Spring Break and Christmas. Sometimes home for the summer.
Based on my informal research, that is, observation of my friends, it looks like it takes more than a couple of years for the empty nest transition to be complete. In fact, from my analysis, it looks like this will probably go on for eight years or so.
I say, totally fine with me.
But…it makes the midlife communication topic even more compelling and important.
And I’m not just talking about phone calls, Skype and texting frequency, although that has to be discussed FOR SURE.
Once the birds have been out on their “own” (even though you’re probably paying for their false independent lifestyle, lol), they can tend to treat your house like a hotel when they don’t live there full time.
They still have responsibilities, right? When did the rule about not leaving dishes in the sink change? And why are they cooking for themselves with no consideration for meal planning?
All of a sudden there are extra kids for dinner with no mention of it. It’s as if they’ve adopted a way of daily life in their own apartments and houses and think that the same rules apply when they come home.
This, of course, needs to be discussed.
I love their friends and say yes to having them stay for dinner 9.5 times out of 10, but I want to be asked first.
I also love when they’re home, but when they’re home, I want them to remember that they have to ask, check in, clear things first.
The vast majority of things they want to do get full support – but there’s some coordination involved. I have a home business afterall. And, as you may know, I record the Women in the Middle podcast at home, and my set up isn’t far from the “kid room” with the big TV and all of the gaming. And only another short distance from the pool table and drum set. All in an open concept, Brady Bunch style home.
These are issues when you’re trying to record a podcast.
When it comes to thinking clearly, coping and communicating, mindfulness strategies are the key to happiness.
It’s crucial to key into your thoughts and feelings when it comes to parenting adult kids. The transition from pre-empty nest – to partially empty nest – to changing empty nest – to truly empty nest takes years so you have time to see what you’re thinking and to decide if you like the way it feels.
If those thoughts and feelings aren’t useful for you, then my amazing women in the middle, you have options.
When you understand that your thoughts are just sentences in your mind and that you can watch them stream by, you are empowered.
When you understand that you don’t need to be at the effect of your feelings when it comes to your kids and all of the frustrating things they do, that you can be more intentional, you are empowered.
So my advice really is to treat this midlife transition the same way you treat other midlife transitions. With care, compassion, fascination and unconditional love RATHER than frustration, annoyance, impatience and conditional love.
They key to this mindset shift is to be aware of your thoughts.
Be aware of your feelings.
And slow down.
Create more pauses in your life.
Shift perspective from the 20 years or so of parenting experience that you have to the gradual appreciation that you’re now parenting adult children and you’ll both have different needs. And wants.
And as my mom always taught me, there’s a big difference between a need and a want.
Decide what’s really important to you.
You can do what you want.
Your kid, your house.
But you just have to like your reasons. And make sure you understand what you’re really thinking and how it’s making you feel.
- You’re kid who’s leaving the dishes in the sink isn’t making you feel annoyed.
- Your kid who doesn’t fill up the gas after a weekend borrowing the car isn’t making you aggravated.
- Your kid coming home at 3 am while home for Spring Break.
You are making yourself annoyed and aggravated with your thoughts.
They might go something like this:
“It’s so disrespectful to come home and not clean up after yourself.”
“What a spoiled brat to think that he can use our car and not replace the gas.”
“She’s being so selfish when she comes home at 3 am knowing full well we have to go to work tomorrow.”
You get to decide if you like your reasons for feeling the way you do or not. If you do, fine. Work on communication. Recognize that you can’t control other people’s behavior. You can state what you want done. You can impose a consequence when it has to do with your belongings like the car. But you can’t control someone else’s behavior.
If you don’t like your reasons, decide how you want to feel and think accordingly. Choosing to be fascinated works wonders.
Could you be fascinated that your kid doesn’t think to refill the tank? When you’re fascinated, you’re rarely aggravated or feel like a bad parent because you raised a spoiled brat.
When you communicate from a place of fascination rather than aggravation, your approach will be completely different. What you do will create your personal result. Every time.
So think about it:
- Could you be open to the idea that your kid is learning more about your needs with this transition?
- Could you think that you’re learning every day how to parent your adult kid?
- Could you be wrong that your kid is a spoiled brat?
- Could you be open to the idea that you’re an amazing parent?
- Could you think that your kid is still growing and learning?
And my favorite, could you be fascinated with how your kid is handling his or her transition into fully leaving your nest?
Pretty good, right? These thoughts have the potential to create a lot more happiness for you as you navigate your nest.
Suzy Rosenstein, MA is a master certified life coach and host of the popular podcast for midlife women, Women in the Middle, with over 1 million downloads. Having wasted five years being stuck herself, she knows how frustrating and painful it can be. She uses her upbeat approach with the serious topic of aging to help you get clear about what you want, get unstuck and live your best life. Girlfriend, there’s more fun to be had! Start now with her free video training about how to get unstuck: www.midlifevideo.com.