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Moving Out - When a Child is Moving Out

Advice for Parents to Ease the Transition


Moving out to attend college or to start their own life away from home is a very large step and one that moves your kids towards adulthood. While a move naturally creates a physical distance between parents and children, the emotional separation does not need to be as difficult as it first seems. And even if parents think that they're going to enjoy their new found space, everyone experiences some sense of loss. Whether it's a house that's too quiet or a phone that now never rings, it's a change that affects all of us.

Moving Out Advice For Parents

Most parents feel disregarded and no longer needed by their now grown child, often noticing that they may not be the primary supporter in their child's life; that role is sometimes replaced by friends or teachers.

While this kind of separation will have begun to happen while your child was still in high school, now that they're off to college, you'll no longer be privy to every detail of their lives, including how they're spending their time, who they hang out with and what they're eating for dinner. This can result in you feeling like you're losing control. This is perfectly normal. And while you may not be fulfilling the same role as before, remember that your child still needs you, but in a different way. It's important to recognize this change in your relationship in order to allow your child to make their own decisions and to learn from any mistakes they may make.

Transition Tips for Parents

  • Give over the planning of your child's future: We're so used to planning our child's day-to-day activities, everything from school schedules to music lessons. A good time to stop planning your child's life is now. Let them prepare for their move. Encourage them to make a list of things they'll need, including important dates, such as registration and move-in days, and what they might require for their first apartment or for their dorm room; however, leave the actual planning to them, letting them know that you're around to help or to offer moving advice.
  • Try to advise them without pushing: The best way of communicating with your grown child is to ask questions without any prejudgment. Many of us ask our children a question, knowing ahead of time what we want their answer to be; when the answer is different than what we want, our response usually let's our child know that we don't agree. While we may not agree, remember that it's time for your child to make their own decisions and to trust that your years of guidance and instilled values will guide them through. Try to be open and if you really disagree with their decision, let them know by offering your alternative without pushing.
  • Try not to label. When a student enters college, there's a lot of pressure to be someone, whether that's a doctor or business major or filmmaker. Labels should be avoided as much as possible. While we may be proud of our child's goals, we should allow space for those goals to develop or even change completely. College is a time when your child can explore options for a career and to find their own passions and their own way. Even if that career choice is not something we had been hoping for; remember that our passions as parents are not necessarily, and most likely are not, the passions of our children.
  • Communicate: Let your child know that you're going to miss them and establish upfront what you expect in terms of communication. If you prefer that they call you every week, then let them know and provide them a means of doing so (phone card, etc...). Be flexible in your expectations and suggest alternatives, such as email or text messaging. Also, let your child know that you're always there if they need you, however, the best solution is not always to run when your child calls. It's best to let them sort out their own problems and issues and to become simply the shoulder to cry on rather than the one who solves everything.
  • Money and finances: Make sure you go over any financial issues that your child needs to know, particularly if you're supporting them. Ensure that they're aware of their own personal budget and what you expect from them in terms of spending and resources. Let them know that they need to stay within a certain budget and that it's their responsibility to do so. If more money is required for unknown or unexpected costs associated with school, they should let you know ahead of time and not expect you to "bail them out". Part of growing up is taking care of their own accounts and learning how to budget.
  • After they move out, give yourself time to adjust. As you know, being a parent is more than a full-time job, caring for and ensuring our children's needs are met. When a child moves out, that time we once spent caring for our child belongs to us again, and while that may feel strange and you may feel a little lost, it's important for you to try and redirect your focus back onto yourself. Before your child leaves, start preparing by making a list of the things you want to do, including any hobbies, house fix-ups, books or courses that you've put off doing because of time. Do something nice for yourself. Be good to yourself.
  • If you're married or in a partnership, re-establish your relationship. Many married people find that after the children leave, they have a difficult time adjusting to being a couple again. Try to start focusing on your relationship by arranging dates, making social plans together or by taking up a new hobby. Reconnecting will happen if you give it time and make it a priority.
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