While you were probably excited when your older children first decided to leave the nest, when they move a distance away, it can be a little harder to handle an empty nest. You may feel your relationship is difficult to maintain and that you’re not as close as you once were.
The good news is that the old adage, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” is very true. There are many ways to stay connected and continue to grow the relationship with your adult children, despite the empty nest. Below are some of the do’s and dont’s that can help keep your relationship strong, even when your children move away.
Show Respect for Their Decisions
Now that your children have grown into adults, they expect to gain the same respect they would give you. By showing respect, your children will want to maintain a close relationship with you, and when you do see each other, the visits can be more pleasant. Showing little signs that you respect the choices they made can go a long way toward building a closer bond. Comments such as, “I am proud of what you accomplished,” or “…how you handled the situation,” are what they want to hear.
It is not only important to provide them with support and a little bit of praise in their adult life, but you also want to avoid being overly critical of their decisions. Even though your children are older, they want to please you, and it is essential to remember that even though they may do things differently than you, it doesn’t mean what they are doing is wrong. When conversing with your child over the phone, try to make sure the conversation has more positive than negative interactions and that the end of the conversation strikes a positive note.
Create Family Traditions
Family traditions provide a strong foundation for your relationship with your older kids, and can give you both something to look forward to. Plan to get together for special holidays and events at a time of year that works for everyone. This can be holiday dinners or even getting together as a family to watch the Super Bowl.
Even with your children’s busy lives, set traditions are hard to bail on. They are a great way to focus on being together and the perfect chance to make sure the whole family stays connected. While it is important to schedule family traditions, make sure you don’t guilt your children into attending. There may be times when it is too difficult to make, or they will need to spend time with the other side of their family. Be flexible. The traditions may have to be every other year to make this accommodation.
Don’t Offer Unsolicited Advice
It is really hard to not offer your children advice on everything from parenting to home renovation. You spent a large part of your life guiding them through the major decisions they would encounter, so it can be very hard to take a step back and allow your child to succeed or fail on their own. Your children may have a different set of needs or priorities than you at that age, and their decisions will be based on their current life experience.
When they do ask for advice, help them work through the pros and cons of the decisions, but let them know they need to make the final decision of what to do. Consider yourself there for guidance, not for telling them what to do. Once they make their decision, stick by them and support it.
Develop a Good Relationship With Your In-Laws
While not getting along with in-laws may lead to great comedy television, in reality, it is never a good situation. Even if you aren’t 100% on board with who your child chose as a spouse, it is important to get to know them, find some common ground with them, and do your best to form a relationship with them and their family.
Building this relationship is not only vital to maintaining a good relationship with your child, but also with your grandchildren. When you have a good relationship with your in-laws, family events can be much more pleasant. You may also find there is higher probability of your child attending family events by hosting ones that combine both families.
Stay Connected, But Don’t Be Intrusive
With amazing advances in technology, you can call your child anywhere, send a text, or even FaceTime to see how big your grandkids are getting. While these tools are great for staying connected, make sure you don’t overdo. Frequent phone calls can become too much, especially if your children lead busy lives. It may begin to seem like you are checking up on them instead of checking in.
Instead, consider setting up a regular time once a week to FaceTime your child and grandchildren and catch up. It will give you something to look forward to, and if it is on a regular schedule, your child will not feel as though it is an interruption.
You can also stay connected by sending occasional care packages of items your child may like. Nothing is better than receiving surprises after a long day. Make sure to keep your gifts limited to thoughtful items and not things that could be misconstrued as being judgemental such as books for improving finances or new diet recipes. If you decide to send packages, don’t get caught up on receiving an acknowledgment call or thank you card right away. The gift should come from the heart with no strings attached.
Consider a Family Vacation
While this may not be something easy to accomplish every year, getting the whole family together for a fun-filled vacation, or family reunion every few years can be a great way to build new experiences both with your children, and your grandchildren. It is important to remember you don’t have to go broke to have a good time. Just make sure you choose a place everyone can easily get to, and the kids will have plenty of available activities.
It is vital to remember, even though your child is creating his or her own life and building their own new relationships, it does not mean they need the security of your relationship any less. Once your child moves away, leaving you with an empty nest, the nature of your relationship may change. But by following the tips above you can help it evolve into a new relationship – instead of a change that creates physical AND emotional distance.