When It’s Almost Time They Fly from the Nest – Coping with Kids Growing Up

As your kids get older and head towards high school graduation, you might come from the bittersweet realization that you only have a few more years with your kids under your roof before they fly from the nest for college and jobs and to live their own lives. While it is exciting that your kids will soon be embarking on their own lives, it can also leave you feeling a little sad and maybe even a little lost and that is totally normal. You, and your kids, are about to experience a big shift. As your kids get ready to fly from the nest, you can prepare them and yourself to make the transition easier for everyone.

Preparing Your Kids to Fly from the Nest 

When it is time for your kids to fly from the nest that means they are getting ready to leave home. It might be for college, to join the military, or to move into their own place and start their adult life. As a parent, you may have been waiting for the day when your kids leave home but as the time for them to fly from the nest actually approaches it is likely that you feel a mix of excitement, worry, and fear. The truth is your kids probably feel the same way. 

First, you can help make things a little easier for everyone by making sure your kids have the skills they need to fly from the nest and survive in the real world. Whether they are leaving in a slightly temporary way like going off to college and will be back home for breaks and summers or they are moving out permanently to start their own lives, it is important to make sure they have the basic skills to survive. 

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You might come to the realization that they will soon be leaving when they have a year or two left at home. That is plenty of time to make sure they are prepared to take care of themselves. This is the time – even if you have not been good at doing this before now – to step back and have them take ownership of some things. 

For instance, don’t jump in and fix problems for them right away. If they are having trouble at school, with friends, or at their part-time job, help them figure out how to solve the problem but don’t do it for them. Offer advice. Encourage them to talk to their teacher about a bad grade or missed assignment rather than contacting the teacher yourself. Have them go to their boss when they are scheduled for a shift they can’t cover. Now is when they need to learn to advocate for themselves and handle problems on their own so that they are comfortable talking to their professors or bosses when they have something that needs to be sorted out. 

READ MORE: 6 THINGS THAT WILL MAKE LIFE EASIER WHEN PARENTING TEENS

Make sure they know how to do basic household tasks. You may have always done the laundry, the cleaning, and cooked but these are important and basic skills they need to learn so that they can take care of themselves. If they have a part-time job, give them some financial responsibility. Have them pay their cell phone bill or be responsible for gas or other expenses.

It may seem obvious to you that you have to pay your bills before you can spend money on other things, a teen who has never had to think about these things is not going to go off to college and miraculously become financially responsible if they have never been taught how to do that. 

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Preparing your kids to fly from the nest benefits them and you. When they have the skills to be successful you can be confident that they can take care of themselves and be a little less worried about them. You may be sad that they are growing up and leaving the house soon, but not teaching them these types of skills and keeping them dependent on you so that you can still “take care of them” is a terrible idea.

They are always going to need your help – even as adults with families of their own they are going to need their parents from time to time. Your support will change, and that can be hard to cope with, but kids always need their parents in one way or the other. The less they need you for basic necessities and everyday things, the more you know you have done a good job parenting them.

READ MORE: TRAVELING THE ROAD TO BECOMING A HAPPY EMPTY NESTER: 3RD TIMES THE CHARM?

How to Cope with an Empty Nest

Even before your kids fly from the nest, you may struggle with the fact that they are growing up and leaving. This pre-empty nest phase can be just as hard as when they are actually gone. As a parent, you will probably spend an enormous amount of time preparing and helping your kids leave home. You will teach them all the skills they need. You will buy them everything they need for their dorm room or their first apartment. You will make sure they are ready. However, how much time have you actually spent preparing yourself for the day that you come home and their room is empty? 

Right now – before they are gone – you might be excited about the sense of freedom that you will have once your kids move out. You might be excited not to have to shuttle kids around or make sure they are off to school on time. Whether you think so or not now, when kids fly from the nest, parents can feel a real sense of loss. Suddenly not having the routines of school or extracurricular activities can make you feel a little lonely and lost. Sometimes this can bring with it feelings of depression. It can even put you right smack in the middle of an identity crisis – if I’m not parenting my kids, who am I? 

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READ MORE: 8 THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOUR BABY HEADS OFF TO COLLEGE

When you are a parent, your identity becomes so wrapped up in parenting. When they fly from the nest and go off to the next phase of their life you have to remind yourself that you did an amazing job being a parent. You raised an independent kid who is becoming an awesome adult. That is hard work! This does not make shifting from parenting kids to parenting adult kids entirely easy, but it is a start in understanding how your role is shifting. Rather than being their caretaker, you are now their guide. You are here, and always will be, to help them navigate through life. 

So acknowledge your feelings. They will likely change over time. You will likely shift back and forth between happiness, excitement, and sadness. If you realize that you are feeling depressed, reach out for help. Spend time realizing that it is time for you to let go of control. Your job now is to support your kids when they need it. 

Before they fly from the nest, begin finding your independence from your kids. Explore your interests. Find or reconnect with friends and create a support network for yourself. You have spent your kids’ entire lives taking care of them. Now it is time to take care of yourself.  


You may only have a few more years with your baby under your roof. While they can drive you crazy sometimes, cherish this time. That does not mean you can’t get mad or frustrated at your sarcastic know-it-all teenager. It means take the time to appreciate the family dinners or the afternoons at the pool. Take the opportunities when you can to teach them the little things that will help them be successful adults. Take the time to understand how you feel that they are about to fly from the nest and prepare yourself for this next chapter of your life.


WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out Home From College – Do You Require Your Big Kids to Follow Family Rules? for more advice, tips, and tricks.


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Michelle Frick
Michelle Frick
Born in Massachusetts, Michelle currently lives in North Carolina. She has two teenage boys who are growing up way too fast. Besides her love of writing, she enjoys running, practicing yoga, watching hockey, and cheering on the Boston Red Sox.

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