Our ‘Nest’ Is Not Empty

“Are you ready for an empty nest?” “I never liked that question” says Kenneth Ginsburg, M.D., M.S.Ed, a pediatrician specializing in Adolescent Medicine at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a Professor of Pediatrics at the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Medicine.

When children ‘leave their nest’ as most people refer to children leaving their parents’ home most parent feel sad and are worried about how their children, they feel anxiety and emptiness. Dr Ginsburg refers to the fact that our children are not gone forever. We should be proud of ourselves because we raised them in children who can navigate the world independently and who choose to cherish interdependence. Our children are always welcomed in their home. He advises on parents not to feel ‘empty’. “Empty” is such a charged term, he explains. It suggests we are “done,” “useless,” or “barren.” “I miss my girls with a vengeance, but our home isn’t “empty,” my wife and I are still here! We have a full life together yet to live. We are excited about the ways we can spend our time together and have newfound time for friendships and to contribute to our community.”

Independence – a step towards – interdependence

As parents, we want nothing but the best for our children. We express our love by attending their needs and very often we forget the most important thing – we have to teach them independence. Although we raise our children to be able to fly on their own, we must also prepare them to understand connection is the most important force in their lives. What we have to do is find a balance between overprotection and demanding their full attention. Yes, they will fly away and the launching may even have its painful moments. But ultimately we want to raise children who choose interdependence, knowing that nothing is more meaningful or makes us more successful than being surrounded by those we love.

Independence enables children to gain a chance to do things on their own, and when they do that, they are most likely to learn things efficiently. Our children will become more self-disciplined and their self-esteem will be enhanced. It’s OK if they commit mistakes – they will have to face the consequences and learn that there are consequences accounted to every action.

“Independence is a critical stepping stone towards healthy interdependence” says Dr Ginsburg. “Children who feel controlled during adolescence are more likely to fly away and leave an empty nest. Children whose growing independence is nurtured are more likely to take flight while looking forward to returning home for frequent landings.”

We should be more aware of the language we use – better language sets the tone for a healthier culture, and words and expectations matter since they create our mood and behavior; they create our reality.

By shifting the tone of our language we can change our expectations and attitudes. So, instead of

“I don’t know if I am ready for an empty nest,” “How are you doing with your empty nest?” try “I am preparing for my children to take flight . . . and will always look forward to their return landings,” “My daughter is in flight, finding herself. It’s wonderful,” “Tell me about what you and your wife are doing with your extra time now that your son is “in flight?’

Be a lighthouse for your children; stable shoreline from which they can safely navigate the world. We must make certain that they don’t crash against the rocks; but trust they have the capacity to learn to ride the waves on their own – and prepare them to do so.


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