What Every Empty Nest Parent Needs to Know (Part 1)

What Every Empty Nest Parent Needs to Know (Part 1) August 22, 2023


Mindset shift #1: Switch from counselor to coach.

For eighteen years, you’ve been your child’s primary counselor – informing their decisions on everything from nutrition and screen time to the value of not leaving their wet bath towel on the floor of their room. (They’re on their own with that one now.)

Here’s why switching from counselor to coach can be such a hard shift: In a nationally-representative survey of teenagers ages 15-17, for For Parents Only, we found that teens actually do feel loved and more secure when we parents take charge (as long as we’re leading them into greater responsibility rather than just “laying down the law”). For us parents, we try to give them more independence as they grow, but when we do need to put our foot down, it often means “taking charge” at precisely the time our teenagers push hardest against our authority. It’s like we spend the end of their high school years as levees braced against a flood of ferocious, emotional elements of burgeoning independence and opinion!

But then from one moment to the next … most of that ferocious flood evaporates. In our research for For Parents Only, we discovered that once a young adult turns 18 and graduates from high school, all that pent-up intensity shifts to a completely different mindset. One that knows their life is now, legally, theirs to manage (even if they do still need help from us financially).

So in the span of a few very short weeks or months, as our kids become adults, graduate from high school, and move on to college or work – often moving out entirely – we must almost immediately trade our “take charge” hat for a “coach” hat. Suddenly, our job is to expertly support and motivate our adult kids as they are now (mostly) responsible for their lives.

It’s enough to give any parent whiplash!

So what to do?


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