The big day has finally arrived and at last your children are grown up, independent and have all married. You find yourself at a stage in life which you always knew you were preparing for, but never quite believed could come so soon.
Many parents have conflicting feelings when their child marries. On one hand, they are happy that their child has found someone to love and who loves them too; that their children will have a chance to build a home and a family and to experience the joys of parenthood for themselves. Yet, on the other hand, there are a myriad of worries and concerns. Will my child find happiness in this marriage? Will our relationships with our new in-laws be positive? Will the young couple’s differences cause trouble? Will their marriage last? How will they raise their children? Will I see much of my child anymore? How much of a role will I and should I have in their new life together?
Somewhere in the middle of all these concerns, there will also be the question of “And now what will I do with all my time? Where do I fit in and am I still important to anyone anymore?”
What Can You Do to Adjust?
These are all valid concerns and natural ones too. But just as your children need to move forward and plan for their future, you too need to adjust and find your place in life again. Focus on the positives of this change. Raising a child to adulthood and seeing your child achieve independence and find a life partner are all wonderful achievements and mean that you have fulfilled your role as a parent.
Accept Your Child’s Choice
When your children marry, it is their first public and legal separation from you. From this point on, they and their spouse will jointly make decisions that they feel will be the best for the family which they will build together.
Your children may make choices in their life partner, religion, lifestyles, children and values which you may not always agree with. But you need to recognise that your children have the right to live their lives independently. The best way for you to show your love for them, is to accept their choices and be there to support them if they need your help along the way.
Get to Know Your In-Laws
Once your child marries, you will be part of a much larger family. You will welcome a new daughter or son-in-law, their parents and their siblings into your family. Even if they seem different from you, make an effort to get to know them and to find some common ground with them. If you are able to do so, you will be making your child’s transition to married life easier by reducing the stress which he or she will experience as the 2 families unite together.
Give Them Space
Every young couple needs space. They are going through a crucial stage in their marriage where they are finding their boundaries and adjusting their lives so that they can function as a single unit going forward. This is important because if they are unable to forge a common purpose, identity and approach to life at this stage, they will always be in conflict, and the dissonance will get worse with the arrival of children of their own. So, even though it might be tempting to drop by often or to want to see your child almost every day, resist the temptation and give them space and time to establish their relationship with each other.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t keep in touch. Try using other means such as social media, texts, emails and other messaging options. Let your child know that you are still there for them if they need you.
Reconnect with Your Spouse
This is a great opportunity to rediscover your relationship with your spouse. You and your spouse have likely allowed your roles as parents to come first over your marriage. Now that your children are truly independent, you can take the time to enjoy your own couple-hood too!
Take the Opportunity to be Spontaneous
Spontaneity was most likely the last thing you had when your children were younger. Your days were probably planned with military precision so that you could get the kids to school and CCAs, get yourself to work, run the household and complete the millions of other things you had to do so that the entire machinery of your family could run smoothly. Well guess what! You no longer have to wake up at 5.30am in the morning, and you have no obligations beyond those which concern yourself and your spouse anymore. So wake up and enjoy the fact that for the first time in many years, you can probably be spontaneous and do anything which you feel you want to today.
- When your children marry, it is natural to feel a sense of loss and uncertainty over what you will do with the rest of your life and how you will fit into their lives going forward.
- Recognise that this is natural, but also accept the choices which your children will make, and remember to congratulate yourself for fulfilling so many of your own goals as a parent.
- Help your children through their transition into married life by being supportive, continuing to keep in touch but still giving them space and establishing a good relationship with their new in-laws.
- Take this opportunity to reconnect with your spouse and to discover life for yourself again.
Tags: Empty Nester