The Empty Nest Years

Congratulations on this new season! Achieving the long-term goal of raising and then launching a child (or children) is one of those milestones in life that can lead to surprising emotions. One day you might feel relieved to catch your breath after such an intense marathon, and then the next day you miss the busyness—especially the ever-present relationships that went with it. Whether you are approaching, just hitting, or deep into the empty nest season, you are likely experiencing a range of feelings that can leave you asking yourself: “What’s next?” This is a great time to take steps toward discovering God’s purpose for you in this season of your life.

STEP ONE

Rediscover Your Mission

Psalm 90 gives empty nesters a reminder of the passage of time and also a prayer to “teach us to number our days aright” and to “establish the work of our hands.” A major segment of your life up to this point has been committed to raising and guiding your children. That faithful and daily focus on your own family has been preparing you for broader service. Those who have managed their own families have learned a couple of things about how to care for God’s church—how to love, forgive, guide, lead, and encourage. These characteristics developed in the previous season, as well as the additional time and resources that often come with an empty nest, will equip you for a whole new world of opportunities to fulfill your mission during this exciting stage of life.

STEP TWO

Rediscover Your Marriage

You may feel like the tsunami of kids that has swept in and out of your house has left you needing to rediscover the person to whom you said “I do” so long ago. Proverbs 5:18-19 says, “May your fountain be blessed, and may you rejoice in the wife of your youth.” After such an intense stretch of parenting, this new season will be an opportunity for you to rediscover the marriage of your youth and to “be ever captivated” by your spouse. You may just need to reintroduce yourself (“Hi, I’m that guy who asked you out a couple of decades ago,” or “I’m that girl you met in college”) and start rediscovering some of your earlier passions and dreams. Commit this new season to God in prayer together, and be intentional to define the “new normal” as Christ-centered and servant-oriented. Make the pursuit of your spouse your top priority with the extra resources of time and money now at your disposal.

STEP THREE

Rediscover Your Children

During earlier stages of parenting, you had some fairly clear lines of authority and control, especially when it came to your house rules. Those lines blur as your children become independent—even if they boomerang back home for a season. When your children are adults, your influence is built more upon the strength of your relationship than upon direct control. Your efforts as a parent need to focus on coaching your children into self-sufficiency. This season requires a lot of trust because “sideline coaching” can be much more challenging than the step-by-step direction you gave in the past. But this season also gives you a vantage point to see the time and effort you’ve invested into your children in a different light—especially as they begin to take ownership of the values you’ve tried to instill (Psalm 78:3-7) and discover God’s plan for their lives.

Prayer

A Prayer of Self-Dedication

Almighty and eternal God, so draw our hearts to thee, so guide our minds, so fill our imaginations, so control our wills, that we may be wholly thine, utterly dedicated unto thee; and then use us, we pray thee, as thou wilt, and always to thy glory and the welfare of thy people; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer, 832

For Families

Almighty God, our heavenly Father, who settest the solitary in families: We commend to thy continual care the homes in which thy people dwell. Put far from them, we beseech thee, every root of bitterness, the desire of vainglory, and the pride of life. Fill them with faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness. Knit together in constant affection those who, in holy wedlock, have been made one flesh. Turn the hearts of the parents to the children, and the hearts of the children to the parents; and so enkindle fervent charity among us all, that we may evermore be kindly affectioned one to another; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer, 828

For Guidance

Direct us, O Lord, in all our doings with thy most gracious favor, and further us with thy continual help; that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in thee, we may glorify thy holy Name, and finally, by thy mercy, obtain everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer, 832

For the Absent

O God, whose fatherly care reacheth to the uttermost parts of the earth: We humbly beseech thee graciously to behold and bless those whom we love, now absent from us. Defend them from all dangers of soul and body; and grant that both they and we, drawing nearer to thee, may be bound together by thy love in the communion of thy Holy Spirit, and in the fellowship of thy saints; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Book of Common Prayer, 830

Going Further

Resources

  • Second Half of Marriage By David And Claudia Arp
    Addresses several challenges of the empty-nest years.
  • 10 Great Dates for Empty Nesters By David And Claudia Arp
    Suggests ways to reestablish the friendship and oneness that characterized your relationship before kids.
  • The “Empty Nest” Topic on TroubledWith.com
    Provides a wide range of articles, resources and referrals. TroubledWith.com

Church Support

  • Get Connected.
    Join with other parents and families from our church who are meeting together to study and connect and pray. Go to the Growth Groups web page for more information.
  • Get Involved.
    Use your gifts! Take our Spiritual Gifts Assessment to discern ways to get plugged into the life of Incarnation.
  • Serve the Poor Together.
    Visit our local outreach page to find out how your gifts can change lives.
  • Talk with a priest.
    Any of the priests on staff at Incarnation are happy to meet with you for direction, counsel, or simply just to talk. Email a priest to set up a meeting. Or call the parish office at 214-521-5101.
Categories: Bringing Faith Home