An Empty Nester's Checklist
Leaving The Security of The Family Home
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.
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.
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.
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
20-24 year olds living with parents in the UK
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
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.
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.