Preparing for an Empty Nest: 5 Ways to Step Back and Still Stay Connected to Your Teen

Don't worry, parents, your child STILL needs you - just in a different way

by Nancy Reynolds

This post: Preparing for an Empty Nest: 5 Ways to Step Back and Still Stay Connected to Your Teen

Written by: Matt Meline (Author ~ Empty Nest Full Pockets: How to Emotionally and Financially Prepare for Your Family’s Future)

I think most parents will admit that there’s an emotional tug of war going on as we parent our teens – especially when our kids become older. We want (and need) them to feel more independent, but we also feel the pangs of angst that come with loosening our grip and losing some control over their lives.

And, it’s easy to see why…

We’ve devoted nearly two decades of our lives to raising good human beings. Our time, energy, financial resources, and unconditional love poured into their lives every single day. From helping them keep up with their schedules and endless trips to the grocery store to supporting them in their sports and hobbies and teaching them the value of hard work – we did it all because we love them. 

What makes it particularly hard is that suddenly, (almost without warning), our kids don’t want our help or guidance like they once did. They aren’t being disrespectful or ungrateful, necessarily. It’s just time for a new chapter in our relationship. Still… it’s hard on parents.

According to author and therapist Stephanie Sarkis, “It’s important to acknowledge that your role in your child’s life is changing. You will always be their mom or dad, but your child may need you in a different way now. It’s completely normal to feel that your purpose in your child’s life has completely changed.”

Sure, it can be challenging, but it’s also an exciting time knowing that a new life awaits both you and your child. Preparing for an empty nest… here are five ways to step back and still stay connected to your teen.

Preparing for an Empty Nest: 5 Ways to Step Back and Still Stay Connected to Your Teen


1, Enjoy Your New Role as a Co-Pilot

Our kids are growing up. They need and want to stand on their own two feet and they don’t want us hovering over them or telling them what to do at every turn. 

Case in point, when my son was in high school, I urged him to join the swim team. I was on the swim team at his age and loved it so I thought he might, too. One day he offered up, nervously, that he wanted to quit the team. “I just don’t like it – I am not having the team experience that you did in high school. Frankly, Dad, I hate it.”

It wasn’t disrespect or disregard for my suggestion. He merely wanted to assert control over his time and decisions and I needed to step back and let him. It was humbling, but it helped me become more of a copilot in our relationship rather than always trying to call the shots. The bottom line is, we have to give our kids room to grow, figure things out on their own and fail. It’s what they need.

2. Remember: Your Teen Still Cares (Even if They Aren’t Showing it)

With your teen gravitating to friends, possibly preparing for college, and spending far too much time away from you, you might feel a little “left out” of their lives. 

You might miss being part of their daily lives and you might even miss the chaos of a busy life with kids and the comfort of knowing they are still safe in your tender care. Mostly, you just miss being with them.

I know I did. I felt an overwhelming feeling of loss. I couldn’t understand why my kids didn’t want to hang out with me like before – After all, I know I’m the funniest Dad on the block!

That’s when a friend of mine looked me in the eye and said, “The only reason your kids are able to become capable, independent young souls is because you’ve done the hard work of raising them well.”  Cue the tears.

3. They’ll Still Need Your Help (Ahem… Did Someone Say Money?)

Be under no illusion, parents, your kids still need you. They’ll still come to you for guidance, advice, or a listening ear. They’ll still drop their laundry off and expect you to wash it for them. They’ll still ask you to make their favorite home-cooked meal. And, they’ll still come to you when they’re flat-broke and need money. 

Getting a grip on “adulting” takes a little time. In the meantime, just be the support system your teen needs – whether it’s sending them some cash to get them through the week in college, springing for an oil change on their car, or running a few errands for them to make their life easier. Of course, your role in your kid’s life is shifting, but they’ll always, always need you. 

4. Communicate More Flexibly

The one thing I’ve learned is that communicating with teens and kids in college (or those who’ve started a career), is not always on our terms. It requires flexibility on our part as well as an open mind. 

Snapchat. FaceTime. Texting. Sending silly memes or GIFS. As a dad, I finally realized that if I wanted to stay connected to my kids, I had to cave into their way of communicating. 

I also found it helpful to have a communication schedule. We set a time each week to connect and catch up. This was particularly helpful when my kids ventured off to college. My kids knew that Sunday nights were always a time to FaceTime Dad.

5. Take Time to Think About Your New Life

When was the last time you thought about yourself? I mean, really thought about your needs, your happiness, and your well-being? Well… here’s your chance! 

Perhaps it’s time to start your own business, go back to school, start a new career, or dive into a new hobby. Is relocating to a new climate in the cards? Oh, and can we please, please, please sell the minivan? Beginning to think about YOUR life can be exciting and liberating! Although the words “empty nest” sound dismal, it can be an incredibly fulfilling time that allows you to refocus your energy on YOU.

Letting go with gumption CAN be a reality. Changing our viewpoint from dread to opportunity, interacting with our kids more as mentors, and being available when they need us are vital steps to making the most of these changes. Above all, it’s about embracing this new chapter in your kid’s life and yours!

About Matt Meline:

Matt Meline Sr., CFP, is the founder and CEO of PrairieFire Wealth Planning and the author of Empty Nest, Full Pockets: How to Emotionally and Financially Prepare for Your Family’s Future. With his 30 years of experience, he founded PrairieFire during his own empty-nester journey in 2019.  Matt’s approach helps families strip away old financial beliefs and preconceptions so they can focus on the goals that matter most with a clear, renewed sense of purpose. Learn more at

If you enjoyed reading, “Preparing for an Empty Nest: 5 Ways to Step Back and Still Stay Connected to Your Teen,” you might want to check out these other posts!

Coping with Empty Nest Syndrome: 15 Tips to Make Life Full Again

I’m Learning to Let Go of My Teen, What’s Hard is Finding a New Purpose

My Daughter’s Empty Bedroom Nearly Broke My Heart

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