20 Parenting Tips from an Empty Nester

I was 22 and my wife was 21 when we got married.  A year later, our first son was born.  Four years later our second son was born.  For most of our marriage, we've had kids in the house.

But now...25 years later we find ourselves in a new season of life.  We're empty nesters.   

It's a lot quieter around our house.  The wonderful sounds that accompany the world of kids have faded away.

I once heard of a couple that had a grandfather clock.  Soon after becoming empty nesters, they sold it.  The constant ticking...which they never noticed when they had kids at home...now echoed through the rooms and annoyed them.

The empty nester season of life brings mixed emotions.  I sometimes walk by my kids' empty bedrooms and wish time had stood still and they were still home.  At other times, I enjoy the increased flexibility I have with my schedule.

Looking back, there are a lot of things I would do differently if there were such a thing as a "do-over" in parenting.  But that's the way it is with everything, isn't it?  Hindsight is such a great teacher.

As a children's ministry director, I often have the opportunity to speak into the lives of young parents.  Here's some of the tips I share with them from an empty nester perspective.

Use your camera...a lot. 
If you don't...one day you'll wish you had. 

Unplug from technology when you're with them. 
Don't let Facebook distract you from looking into your child's face when you're talking with them.  

Realize time is precious.
Parenting keeps you so busy that you don't realize just how fast time is flying.  One day you'll look back and it will have all been a blur.  I was reminded of this when I was officiating my oldest son's wedding a few years ago.  As I watched him stand at the altar,  the memories came flooding back.  Wasn't I just holding him in my arms at the hospital?  

Eat dinner together. 
Don't let the drive through at McDonald's on the way to soccer practice become your dinner table.  Studies show that kids who have a daily sit down dinner with their family are much healthy emotionally and spiritually.

Know their friends. 
Your kids' friends are a snapshot of who they are.  Know who they are spending time with.

Write down the memories. 
If you don't, you'll forget a lot of the little things that are the source of great memories.

Keep some of their stuff.
You'll look back and cherish that little cap they wore home from the hospital...that drawing they gave you when they were four...that flower pedal from their prom.

Pray for them.
Pray the promises of God over their lives.  Pray for their future spouse.  Pray they will make wise choices.  Pray they will follow God's direction.

Let them fail.
Failure can be a great teacher when you learn from it.  Don't deprive your child from these lessons by always rushing to their rescue or making sure they never experience disappointment.

Go to as many events as possible. 
Be there for the play.  Be in the stands.  Be there for the recital.  They know if you're there or not.

Listen...really listen to them. 
You want them coming to you when they have questions.  If you don't really listen to them, they'll take those questions somewhere else...to people who may not give them the right answers.

Express your love. 
Hug them.  Kiss them.  Tell them you love them...even when they are teenagers.  At times, they may not show it...but they need this and cherish every moment of it.

Teach them about money. 
How to earn it.  How to give it to God and others.  How to save it.  How to spend it wisely.

Take your day off. 
There's nothing at work that's more important than being home with your kids on your day off.

Use your vacation time and spend it with them. 
Some of your greatest bonding times and memories with your kids will be from vacations.  Don't look back on December 31 at unused vacation time.

Do some big, memorable things with them.
Save up money and do something big with your kids at least a few times.  Make it a trip or event they will never forget.  Yes, it will cost you...but the return is priceless.

Love your spouse and show it.
One of the best things you can do for your kids is to love your spouse.  They will say, "gross" when you kiss or hug in front of them, but inside it helps bring the security and stability that they long for.

Read the Bible with them.
Anytime of the day is great...but there is something special about reading God's Word with your kids as you're tucking them in for the night.  Those few moments together will lay a spiritual foundation that will last for a lifetime.

Don't over schedule their lives. 
Organized sports and activities are great...but leave your kids time to just "play" and be at home with you as well.  No agenda to fulfill.  No practice to be at.  No skill to hone.  Just you and them spending free time together.

Realize your responsibility is to make them independent of you.
Someone I know came up with this strategy and it's brilliant.

When your child is young (ages newborn to 5) you are their caretaker.  Your job at this stage is to nurture and care for them.

When your child reaches their elementary years (ages 6-11) you are their cop.  Your job is to keep out of situations and scenarios that can harm them.

When your child reaches their teenage years (ages 12-17) you are their coach.  Your job is to train them and guide them.  You begin to give them more and more freedom directly correlated with how they steward the responsibilities you are giving them.

When you child reaches their adult years (18+) you are their consultant.  You offer them advice and help when they ask for it.

The day will come when your kids will leave home.  It will be difficult.  But if you've done your job as a parent, they will be prepared to leave the nest and soar.

The floor is yours.  What are some other parenting tips for young parents.  Share them in the comment section below.