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An Empty Nester's Checklist

Updated on January 26, 2014

Leaving The Security of The Family Home

Helping your kids find their way in the world is the key task of parenting when they reach this stage
Helping your kids find their way in the world is the key task of parenting when they reach this stage | Source

Time To Go?

You might be dreading it or counting down the days but it comes to all parents eventually. Your children have grown up and are perched on the edge of the nest flapping their wings.

Most of us feel intense ambivalence about this: The food you bought last night won’t have been magically replaced by a trail of wrappers and crumbs when you get home from work, the multiple pairs of huge trainers waiting by the front door to trip you up will be gone. On the other hand just as they metamorphisise into an interesting, funny, companionable adult who knows how to cook someone else is going to reap the benefit of all your hard work.

But have they really gone? Can you be sure that they won’t materialize in a tearful heap on the doorstep just after you have finished converting their bedroom into an office? The type of leaver they are should provide some clues.

Moving out

All hands on deck to help
All hands on deck to help | Source

The Elastic Offspring

This is a very common type and is characterized by youth, inexperience and a hopelessly idealistic faith in dubious friends. Although the premise that it is time for some independence and experience of the world is sound, if the new living arrangements are based on the assumption that fun friends will also be fun to live with it could end in disaster. I can tell you from experience that a guaranteed way of cementing your child’s determination to go through with this plan is to exclaim loudly that he can’t possibly be serious about sharing with this irresponsible, unreliable, unhygienic waste of space.

This arrangement will last around six months before he is back as if attached to your home by elastic, possibly with a broken games console and a couple of bills that the fun friend was supposed to pay.

He may go through this a few times before either actively seeking out the most sensibly dull friend he can find or acquiring a girlfriend to make his decisions for him.

A watershed in Your Child's Life
A watershed in Your Child's Life | Source

The Transformation Kid

The transformation child reaches a turning point, often going away to university, and never properly comes back. It is usually the one you least expect that will do this. You worried about them all through their teenage years and are terribly anxious about how they will cope away from home, they seem so young, so fragile. But while you are dividing your time between fretting at home and driving up with food parcels they are quietly establishing themselves in their new domain.

A transformation kid can be predicted by the complexity of the ties they establish whilst at college. If they have a part-time job and a local love-interest by the end of the second year the chances are they regard themselves as happily settled and won’t want their bedroom back.

The Diva

If you have a diva you will know, you won’t need me to tell you about it. You may, only now, be gathering yourself and trying to recapture some of your energy and composure. When installing one of my own tribe in his student accommodation for the first time I encountered a couple following their child along the corridor to the new student room. One was carrying a floor lamp and the other a houseplant.

Divas will describe themselves as having high standards and liking things to be right. If you are looking at your 10 year old and thinking ‘hmm, I think we might fit into this category…’ best start preparing now.

Some Facts and Figures

How Many
20-24 year olds living with parents in the UK
3 million
Anticipated individual student debt in the UK
20-24 year olds in employed in USA
Parents in USA reporting adult children moving back in
Estimated total student debt
$1 tn
Source: The Guardian Newspaper/Tew Research

The Secret Mover

The secret mover is a thoughtful child, they know this is an emotional time for you, that you will miss them, so they try to move out as surreptitiously as possible so as not to upset you. Either that or they are keeping all their options open. A classic example of a secret mover is one who, to all intents and purposes, is actually living with his girlfriend but puts in just enough appearances to prevent you realising that something significant has happened. This has the added advantage of keeping a door open in the event of things going horribly wrong.

A useful indicator that you are potentially in a secret moving scenario is if your child takes an unaccountable interest in household objects. You may find yourself having conversations that start with ‘you don’t need two bath mats do you?’ or ‘these towels don’t get used any very much!’. You are actually helping him to set up home but he is very kindly saving you the bother of buying him new stuff.

This is a momentous kind of leaving because it can signify the final transition to adulthood. Gone were the days of broken games consoles and broken friendships, when my secret mover left the house with a saucepan and a baking tray in his backpack, I realised he was going for good this time.

Exciting Times

Exhilarating but a bit scary.
Exhilarating but a bit scary. | Source

Leaving kids leave gaps in your life - get some support for yourself as well

If It's Your Turn

So when it's your turn be cool, be supportive, be prepared but, most importantly, be proud whatever happens.


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      Celina 2 years ago

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    • Allyson Cardis profile image

      Allyson Cardis 3 years ago from Gloucestershire, England

      Thank you all for your congratulations.

      I do agree Ahorseback, you have to trust your kids to make their own way and let them sort out their own problems, no matter how tempting to helicopter in every time. I am reaching the same stage as you Lisa, of watching them make their own lives (congratulations on the puppy by the way!).

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      LisaKeating 3 years ago

      Congrats on HOTD. I love the empty nest. There is great joy in seeing your grown kids go out into the world and make their own happy, productive lives. In fact, just today I became the lucky grandmother to a Lab/Corgi mix grand-puppy!

    • Baby-Boomer-58 profile image

      Alex Finn 3 years ago

      You are so-o right, Allyson. lol.

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      Shasta Matova 3 years ago from USA

      It is interesting the ways children decide to leave the nest. Congratulations on HOTD.

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      Ahorseback 3 years ago

      It all come back to the term "helicopter" parenting . So many times today I run into friends and family that have coddled their children more than is wise perhaps , AND , I've also met so many "lost" souls of these same parents who put so much into their children's lives that they forgot their own to the point where they now seem lost in a world without someone to dote on constantly . Thereby creating kids ill- prepared for the independence required for a good life of their own . Unfortunately itt then takes longer for most young people to develop into mature adults ! Interesting hub !

    • Allyson Cardis profile image

      Allyson Cardis 3 years ago from Gloucestershire, England

      Yes I should ask my mum as well. It feels very different when it's you being left rather than leaving, it does tug on the heartstrings!

    • kiddiecreations profile image

      Nicole Kiddie Granath 3 years ago

      Allyson, very interesting hub! I've never heard of these categories before. My parents have two "birds" who have "flown the nest" so to speak (me and my middle brother. The youngest one is still at home). I should show this article to my mom and see which category she thinks we fall into, haha.