A large part of getting through the empty-nest syndrome is just learning how to let go and allow your children to stand on their own. That means coming to terms with your shifting roles as parents and realizing that if you've put in them what you were supposed to put in them, they'll be all right.

Again, that's why it's so important to teach your children the Word and how to exercise their faith when they're growing up. By that, I don't mean just telling them but living it before them in the home. Children learn by precept and example!

You'll know that you've done your job when you see your children start to take on the roles you once had in their lives. For example, my husband and I always lived a lifestyle of faith in the home, so our children learned that faith works.

Our youngest daughter is still at the "give me all you want to give me" stage (we're still working on her), but our two oldest children are at the place where they pretty much want to use their own faith for things.

Our oldest daughter told us that she didn't want us to buy her a car unless the Lord told us to. We understood where she was coming from, but I told her, "Look, if your daddy buys you the car that you want, then you'd better believe God moved on his heart! That's the only way you'd get that kind of car out of him!" (She was believing God for a sporty luxury import!)

Once your children go out and start families of their own, you can't force yourself on them. You become their extended family, so you can't do for them like you would if they were in your home. You have to respect their decisions, step back, and allow them the opportunity to let their families develop.

It can be very difficult to have to suddenly take a back seat when you've spent half your life raising your children and being a family to them. But if you understand and respect God's order, then you won't have as hard a time.

One reason why some people have such a hard time with this is that they don't have anything else to do. They don't have a life anymore. Their lives were wrapped up in their kids.

Well, if you do it God's way, your life is going to be wrapped up primarily in your spouse. Everything else which comes out of that relationship, children included, is just a blessing.

Then when you reach the empty-nest stage, you're blessed even more, because you see your grown children beginning their own lives and you realize that you did something right. (It's always a blessing to know you've done things the way that God ordained.)

Your role as a parent was bound to change, so during this time, you should be readjusting your priorities. Your commitment to your spouse will always be your first priority, but spending time with your children will no longer have the same place.

The whole focus in your home shifts back to just you and your spouse.

So, really, you need to look at the empty-nest period as a good thing. It's simply a time of transition. It's meant to be a time of adjustment. It's a good time to reexamine your marriage to see if you've reached the goals you set as a couple.

It's also the time to renegotiate your marriage and begin a new partnership. You need to find out where you want to go next and what you need to do in order to get there. Then you can work on banding closer together and preparing for the next season in your marriage.

You may discover that you have to reestablish the feelings and love you once had for each other. But you'll also find that you have more freedom to do it. You can walk around the house again with nothing on if you want to! You don't have to lock your bedroom door anymore. You don't even have to take the phone off the hook.

All the things you couldn't do when your children were there, you now have the liberty to enjoy once again. So you should use this time to reestablish the importance of your marriage and to rediscover one another.

You can renew or fortify your relationship and experience even greater intimacy than you had before. If you'll take advantage of this time, you'll find that you'll be in a much better position to face the retirement years ahead.

Keith Butler Ministries
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