How to Love Your Kids (and Yourself) as they are Leaving Your Home
It’s the summer after high school and your son or daughter is never around. You may be feeling ignored and sad. You had hoped that this last summer would be a time for you share the final words of advice and wisdom with your child as you helped them to prepare for moving away from the haven of the family home. Instead you barely get an opportunity to say hello or good-night each day. They are with their friends going here and there and keeping incredibly busy doing anything and nothing.
It’s ok…and it’s normal. When 18-year-old kids (often subconsciously) realize that a big transition is in the works their response is often to ignore it and to stay so busy that they don’t have to deal with all the big emotions that they are (barely) managing to hold at bay. They have lived at home for their entire life, and now they are going to be living on their own…it sounds fun and exciting and great until the reality hits…they are going to be living on their own!!! YIKES! That means they are going to be responsible for everything…and that is usually a pretty scary thought. Without realizing they are doing it, they find that it is better to stay busy all the time and then they don’t have to think about the scary reality of what is happening in the fall.
I learned a lot when my oldest daughter left home, but it didn’t make the transition easier with the next two. Each one was sad in some way, and I am glad that it was because it meant that I was happy when they were home and that it was challenging that they weren’t going to be living with me anymore. But I think that I became a better parent with each successive leave-taking. I realized that my job as parent was not over, it was just changing. I learned some lessons, and I would like to share them with you. Maybe both you and your child can relax and enjoy the process a little with a few tips.
Unfortunately, you will probably feel like you are walking a tightrope over the summer. Just like when they were two years old they will seemingly go back and forth on what they want from you. First, they want to be your little boy or girl, and then an hour later they barely want to acknowledge you as a parent with any impact over them. Again, it’s normal. That doesn’t make it easy as a parent, but maybe a few tips will help:
- To the degree you are able, maintain a sense of humor.
o Trust that you have done a wonderful job of parenting your child.
o Understand that this is a stage, and that humor helps.
o Laugh when you can, cry when you need to.
§ This is a time of celebration! It is also a transition.
§ Celebrate this time of saying good-bye to a chapter in your child’s life and saying hello to their next chapter.
- Keep your home life stable.
o This helps them to know they have a safety net that allows them to leave.
o Knowing that home is there for them really does help.
- Love them exactly where they are.
o Love them as they grow,
o Love them as they struggle,
o Love them as they easily leave,
o Love them in their great ability to adjust to change or
o Love them as they try to ignore that they are leaving home.
- Be prepared to offer a lot of support around the details of preparing and moving to school…even if they act like they don’t want it.
o Remember that sense of humor? This is a good time to laugh and shake your head and quietly step up and support them to successfully manage a move.
- If you have a spouse or partner, check in
o They may be struggling with this change and are unused to or unable to share exactly what they are experiencing
o Be a team, help each other as you support and love your child into the next chapter.
- Find a friend or a group of friends to support you and to act as a sounding board.
o There is nothing like the wisdom, love and support of other women who are or who have gone through the same thing.
o Find a coach or counselor to walk alongside you as you adjust to your next chapter in life.
And my final piece of advice is “Breath”. Take a breath, release it and do it again, and know that this is a short but important chapter in your and your child’s life. Let your breath help you to find perspective and the ability to remain loving and supportive to yourself and to your child.