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Leaving home

Youth; young; people; leaving; home; leaving home; adolescent; development; teenager. ;

 At some time, often in their late teens or early twenties, young people decide to leave home. The ideal situation would be where the move is by mutual agreement, with parents and the young person feeling that the time is right.

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To leave or to stay? When is the right time?

Many young people leave home long before they are mature enough and others stay longer than they or their parents would like, often because they are studying or unable to get work, so they can't afford to live independently. Many young people stay at home longer now than in the past for these reasons.

Reasons for leaving 

The timing of the young person leaving the family home can depend on a variety of reasons. The young adult may:

  • need to move to a place closer to work or study
  • have formed a relationship and decide to live with that person
  • decide to move into shared accommodation with a group of friends
  • choose to leave home because of conflict, arguments or restrictions at home
  • be asked to leave by parents
  • have decided that this the right time to leave.

Parent's reactions

  • How you feel and react to your young person leaving will obviously vary depending on the reasons for leaving, including your young person's age.
  • A planned move for a marriage or to study is generally more easily accepted by parents.
  • Leaving home because of conflict, to live in a defacto relationship, to live with others or live alone sometimes involves disagreements.
  • You may not approve of the choice of friends or lifestyle of those whom your young adult chooses to live with.
  • You may worry about your young person's choice of a partner.
  • You may worry because your young person seems to have different moral standards from the way he was brought up, or worry about what your friends or relations will think.
  • You may worry that they will not look after themselves adequately, that they may not eat properly, that they will be lazy and not do the washing and cleaning.
  • You will probably have feelings of loss and sadness and 'miss' their company.
  • Some parents, who have spent their lives thinking about and caring for their children, may find it even harder to adjust to the empty space left when their young person leaves home.

What you can do

  • If your young person has decided to leave home you cannot stop her. You may have concerns but all you can do at this stage is to let her know your point of view. Fights and arguments will not help.
  • Instead it is better to put your energy into understanding each other before she leaves, so that when it happens you can have a good relationship with her in the future.
  • If your child is deciding to move out immediately because of a fight, try to calm the situation so that an unwise decision is not made in haste.
  • Perhaps arrange for a short break with family or friends before a firm decision is made. This will allow time for you and your young person to reconsider the situation and negotiate. If she then still wishes to move, it can be done with your support.
  • Some parents may have doubts about the choice of a partner.
    • Young people need to live their own lives based on their own choices.
    • They need to discover what is right for them for themselves.
    • Don't put your children in the position of having to choose between you and their partners - you may lose out!
  • If you are unsure of your young person's financial skills, challenge him to draft out a budget to show how he will manage on his own. Get him to check out how he will be able to get an income if he is unemployed.
  • Moving out can be an exciting time for young people. Try to be understanding and supportive. Offer to help them look for accommodation, furniture and household goods.
  • You need to decide what items of furniture or other possessions belong to the young people and what belongs to the general household.
  • You will also need to think carefully about whether another child in the family may move into the bedroom, whether you keep it in case of your young person's return or whether you use the space for another purpose.
    • Young people can become very upset if you take their space too soon and especially if you clear out their things.
    • It is a good idea to keep their room for a while if you can, especially as many younger adults come and go a bit at first. Consider what message your young person will get before you take any action.
    • If their things need to be moved, ask them to come and do it. These things are part of the childhood they are leaving behind and they are often very attached to them, at least for a while.
  • If your child is leaving because of conflict, fights, or domestic violence, then perhaps you may consider outside help in the form of counselling.

What you can do for yourself

  • If you have spent most of your time and emotional energy in bringing up your children this can be a difficult time for you. Remember that it is a time when the nature of your relationship changes, but not the underlying love and family ties.
  • It is a time when you have to re-think where you want to put your energy.
  • It can also put pressure on marriages or partnerships if one partner wants to change things and the other one does not.
  • It is important to talk through your feelings and needs so that you can work out a balance that suits you both.
  • It can also be a time when you can be thinking about the things you want to do for yourself that maybe you have had to put "on hold".
  • Think about what is important to you and don't be afraid to have a go. It is never too late to try something new.
  • Here are some things people have done when their children left home. You may like to try some of them:
    • Learn a new hobby every year (one mother learnt horse riding, painting, swimming and Italian cooking in the first few years after her children left home). You might like to try something like this or something totally different that is right for you.
    • Take up something you always wanted to do, eg learn to drive, do a course of study, take up bush walking.
    • Go away for weekends together regularly, plan ahead to be sure they happen.
    • Make a year's plan of things to do as a couple.
    • Join a new group.
    • Join an exercise class.
    • Seek out old friends and make a time to get together.
    • Think of different ways for living at home, eg take up a new kind of cooking, plant a vegetable or herb garden

Think of what would work for you.

Visiting 

  • It is important that your young person knows he is still a member of the family even when he is no longer a member of the household.
  • He needs to feel welcome to visit.
  • However, you have the right to say what behaviour is not allowed in your home eg "You are welcome to come anytime but using of drugs, violence or offensive language is not welcome. What you do out of home is your business but at home you need to stick to our house rules".
  • If your young person has a friend or partner whom you do not like or approve of, you need to think carefully before you ban the friend from your home, because you may be banning your young person as well. It is usually more helpful to say what behaviour is not OK, rather than what people.
  • It is usually OK to tell your young person how you feel or what you think (once) - or more often if he wants to talk about it. But then trust him to make his own decisions.
  • You need to have faith that the young person you have brought up with love and care will be able to work through his feelings and values and make wise decisions in the end - even if his choices along the way seem rocky.

Coming and going

  • Just when you have started to get used to your child living away from home she may decide to come back.
  • Often young people long for freedom, being able to do as they wish and they move out for a time. They are sometimes unprepared for all the responsibilities and chores that are involved in living independently or want the security of home again for a while. Like birds learning to fly, young people often try a few short flights before they take off.
  • Many young people may return home for a time, or even a few times before they are really able to stand on their own two feet.
  • When they return they expect you to have kept their room and possessions for them, preferably intact!
  • If another family member has been using their room or if it has been altered for another person, your young adult may feel hurt and rejected, as though she has become a visitor and no longer a member of the family.
  • Understand her feelings and talk about what she wants and you want before she comes back.

A lot of young adults return home once or a few times before making a final departure. This disruption to your lifestyle requires a lot of flexibility in living arrangements and a re-thinking of your rules and relationship with your young person. However if you can hang in there and support your young person over this time it will pave the way for a future friendship which can be very rewarding to you all.

Resources for young people

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The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).

This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.

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