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Family Circle Changes

Family Circle Changes

Family Circle Changes

I was having coffee with a friend recently, and we started talking about the bittersweet family circle changes that occur once your kids start getting married and/or having children.  You begin to realize that you are no longer part of their “immediate family circle”, which is made up of your children’s spouses and/or children.  This realization comes with a somewhat painful jolt.  For the majority of your kids’ lives, you have been the person they turned to for love, support, advice and comfort. It’s tough to realize that you are no longer the center of their universe. Suddenly that role is filled by a spouse and/or children, and it feels like you are on the outside looking in.

It is our jobs as parents to raise a child and have them be able to live life on their own.  It’s important that they know how to do that.  After all, you will not always be around for them.  As we raise our families, we know the day will come when our little ones will grow up and move on to live their own lives.  What we are not prepared for is the different role that we now play in their lives.  “Your” family is now secondary to “their” family.  The focus of their lives is now squarely on their own family, and that is the way it should be.  As parents, however, there is a sadness that we feel as these bittersweet family circle changes begin to happen.

My friend made a very good point regarding this.  She said that as a parent of grown children, you probably talk about your kids a lot. You still love and worry about them, like you did since the day they were born.  Nothing has changed for you.  Unfortunately, things have changed for your children.

Their emotional balance has shifted. Their priorities and their conversations are about kids, jobs, spouses, etc.  Mom and Dad are no longer the center of their emotional universe.  You may think that this sounds a lot like the “empty nest syndrome”.  It’s really not.  It is a step beyond that.  Empty nest is more about the child physically leaving the family home to live elsewhere. It’s a more of a physical absence in our lives, with distance being the cause.

So what does that mean?

It means that we parents are now standing just outside the inner family ring that our children have built.  This in no way means that we are not still involved in our kids’ lives in a meaningful way.  It does mean that we have been replaced as the center of their universe.  This is where the jolt of sadness comes in.  Let’s face it, it’s disconcerting and scary to NOT be the center of the universe for our kids.  Perhaps this is the reason parents don’t talk openly about this issue.  It’s downright uncomfortable to acknowledge our feelings of sadness as these bittersweet family circle changes occur.  It feels selfish on our part to feel anything but happiness for our kids.

We parents need to graciously accept the fact that our children have moved into a new phase in their lives. Talk to friends about the situation, and feel reassured that every parent experiences this.  Think back to when you were raising your own family.  You will see it was the same for you with your parents.  Find ways to maintain strong family ties from just outside your children’s new inner family circle.  To quote my friend, Tobi, “the sadness lessens as we grow into our changing role, and watch our children, with joy, as they tend to their families.”

Head Boomer Sue –

(with special thanks to my friend, Tobie)

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