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How To Cope When Your Son or Daughter Leaves Home

Updated on September 21, 2016

Any parent knows that a day will come when their child will grow up and leave home. They will make plans and preparations. They will mentally tell themselves it will be okay. They will reassure their child that he/she will be a success in everything they do, if they apply themselves. If they are going to college, forms will be filled out and scheduled tours will be made. The calendar may even be filled with highlights on the big event. But, what about the child that flies from the coop unexpectedly? How does a parent cope with that?

The day I decided to leave the nest

I dropped the bomb on my parents unexpectedly when I chose to get married at eighteen, my senior year of high school. I never thought about how it would affect them or my siblings at the time. The only thing I was focused on was that I thought I was ready to start a family. In many ways I was, but there were some lessons that parents have taught their children that doesn't seem to stick until our own children come along. This is one of those lessons.

If you were to ask my mother, mljdgulley354, what kind of teenager I was, she would tell you that I was about as close to a perfect teen as a parent could ask for. I tried to adhere to the lesson “treat others as you want to be treated”. Mom was constantly telling us that our children would be ten times worse than we were, so remember that what we do, they will more than likely do...and then some. I took it seriously at the time, and can look back and laugh at it now.

My Children

When my son came along, he was very much like me. Hardly ever slept, rambunctious, outgoing, and funny, but tried to avoid trouble like the plague. If he couldn't avoid trouble, there was a debate, as he expressed his thoughts about fairness or what he did wrong. I often told him he should have been a lawyer.

My daughter was his polar opposite. Slept twelve hours with a two hour nap during the day. Lazy, unless it was on her terms her way, hilarious, and seemed to breed trouble without trying. (That was how she earned the name Pokey.) She craved attention, was my social bug, and mother hen.

First day of school

When my son went to Kindergarten for the first day, we stood together waiting for the doors to open so he could see his class and meet his classmates. My daughter stood by, chomping at the bit furious, because she couldn't attend class with her brother. Next to us was a mother with her son. She was having a melt down. Dabbing her eyes, hugging her son, carrying on about how great it was that he was such a big boy now and how much she was going to miss him while he was in school. The poor boy looked embarrassed and unsure of how he should react to his mother's crying out bursts.

My children watched in awe and disbelief over an action they had never seen before. This was cheap entertainment to them and worth making a note of. They had seen drama before, but never to this degree. When the time came, I bid my son farewell and told him I would pick him up at three. He returned with a "whatever" and ran off to join his friends.

These were the same results I experienced with my daughter when she started school. The only difference was that she was going to be a handful for any of the teachers in her path.

Growing up

As my children grew into their teens, they started to go their separate paths. As predicted, it was soon obvious that my daughter was going to be my biggest challenge, while my son did most of his antics quietly, with responsibility and control.

My daughter has always felt that whatever was good for the goose, was good for the gander. (If her brother could do it...why can't she?) Therefore, in her book, this gave her a wide pasture to do whatever she wanted with no regards to the consequences. Her motto was that life should be lived to the fullest with tons of passion, for one never knew when it might be snuffed out.

Getting read for graduations

After my son graduated he made plans to move. Since we had plenty of notice when he was planning on doing this, it was easy for me to make the adjustment, because I had plenty of time to mentally prepare myself. This didn't make the task any easier, but the empty nest didn't last long. My daughter, on the other hand, showed signs of jealousy, anger, and depression, because she felt she was losing her best friend. She wanted to join her brother on his adventures.

The day my daughter ran away came as a blow to my husband and I. We had been trying for years to rein her wild ways in and teach her responsibility for her actions. My husband and I both questioned our parenting skills, often laying blame on each other for how she was. In reality, this was the person our daughter wanted to be, and it was time for us to accept that. (In many ways, things could have been worse, but there were a few things she used her head about.)

She took off with her boyfriend, a month before her graduation, while I was taking a nap. Looking back, I thought it was strange how they were more than happy to jump in and help me finish digging out my flower bed. (She would often argue with me about doing chores because she had something else planned.) Since I was so tired, I didn't give it much thought when she asked to go to a friends house, giving me full details of where she would be and for how long. (This was another sign something was up, because usually I was the one asking twenty questions) It wasn't until she didn't show up for curfew that I began to suspect something was amiss. By three in the morning, I had woke up the household looking for clues as to where she was, but not knowing that she had took off to go live with her boyfriend. (Her brother had come back to live with us for a few months after his trip to Arizona didn't work out. So, since they were so close, the focus was on him.)

Our son was plagued with guilt. She had been smarting off comments about her plans to him, but because she had been doing this for so long, he hadn't taken her serious. It bothered him that he had the possibility of doing something about the situation, if he had only taken a moment to take her serious. It took him a long time to overcome his guilt and anger.

For me, I had experienced a wave of emotions in a short week, before I came to terms that she wasn't coming back. The first emotion was outrage and the desire to beat her senseless for not caring about what she was doing with her future. To permanently cut her off...disowning her because I had believed everyone of her lies about her plans for her future. My second emotion to hit me was heartbreak. It felt as if she had died. My little girl I have loved and cherished was gone. In its place was a stranger that I didn't know. My third emotion was disappointment. I was disappointed in myself, my husband, my son, and other members of friends and family. I had wanted to ease my guilt for what I had seen as my failure as a parent, by laying the blame on others. My last emotion was defeat. It was time to accept my daughter for the person she had become instead of the person I had wanted her to be.

I was grateful that she decided to finish school, even though she chose not to live with us. It took a lot of communication on our part to patch up the issues that caused her to take off in the first place. Even still, she chose the path of greatest resistance.

Letting Go

Which brings me back to the question at hand. How does a parent cope when their child leaves home? I used my faith and the power of prayer to overcome my children leaving home. I called my mother and asked her how she coped with me leaving. Her answer was the same as mine.

There comes a time when a parent has to accept the inevitable. It doesn't mean they have to like it, but need to accept that their child has become an adult. They can no long hide their actions behind their parents. They will now have to live with the choices they make. It is our job as parents to continue guiding them, but to step back. Let them stumble and fall on their own, so they will grow as we did at that age.

My neighbor stopped me one day, not long after our daughter's graduation. (One of her daughter's had graduated with mine.) She asked me how I was coping with what I had just gone through. Both of her daughters were running a rebellious streak. She was at her wits end. I looked at her with a smile and said, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”

I learned to let go. Knowing that I had done the best I could with the knowledge I had, and hoped that the lessons I taught my children would stick. I am seeing the results of those lessons. My daughter has learned a lot about being a grown up. She repeated my words back to me one day, when I least expected; she had said that some people have to learn their lessons the hard way, and that she was one of them.

She now has two children of her own.

My son uses those lesson we have taught him in his work place. When he was a guard at a corrections facility, he seen every day how certain choices can make or break a life. That is what they are...choices.

As a parent, we can choose to let our children grow up and support them even though we don't agree to their lifestyle, or we can choose to let it eat us up, shortening our happiness we could be having in our lives. The question now is...what will you do?


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Yes, the letting go phase is difficult although they were never ours to keep anyway. Children are created by God before we ever knew them and we only get to keep them for a short while then they must go and follow their dreams. I am currently going through this phase and it is a difficult one in fact probably one of the hardest things I have ever done. My daughter eloped and married a guy in the military who got stationed in Korea. Now since the base did not have room he got his own place so now she will be leaving in 2 days and the pain is almost unbearable. She will be 8000 miles away and there will be nothing I can do to protect her. All I can do is pray for her safe return back to the US in about a year. In my eyes she will always be my baby girl

    • tlpoague profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from USA

      Thanks Nell, it was difficult on so many different levels. Afterward it took a long time to rebuild our relationship. I don't think she realized just what we went through with her actions until she had a child of her own.

      Even at 29, I am sure it was just as hard. They will always be our little baby know matter the age...LOL!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      5 years ago from England

      Hi, that must have been so difficult when she upped and left like that, I would have hated it if my son did it. as it was I was totally heartbroken when my son left home, but of course its his life and to be fair he never left until he was about 29! lol!

    • tlpoague profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from USA

      Thanks Audry, I wasn't sure how this would rank on HP's guildlines for being too personal of a hub, but felt the need to share with others that some feelings are natural when faced with empty nest. I have to is hard to let them live their dreams, especially if it seems that they are making the wrong choice in your eyes. Thanks again for your comment!

    • tlpoague profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from USA

      Thanks Denise for stopping by. I have become a stranger here but often think of the friends I have made. I can only imagine the gray hairs you gathered. Isn't it funny how kids can be the polar opposite of each other? This was a difficult hub to write but, at the time, felt I needed to vent. I would have never had the courage to write it if it wasn't for a neighbor asking me how I was coping. Her daughter was in the same class as mine. She was having just as hard of a time dealing with empty nest and rebellious teens. That got me to thinking about other parents out there going through simular situations. A lot has happened since then. My daughter is now married with a child of her own. She has slowed down a bit and not long ago reminded me that sometimes kids have to learntheir lessons the hard way. I couldn't help but laugh. (just wait till hers gets older...) Thanks again!

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 

      6 years ago from California

      This s such a difficult time for parents and for children. You are brave to tell us your story in this hub and for that I thank you. It is so difficult to accept our children's dreams for their lives rather than our dreams for them--thank you!

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      6 years ago from North Carolina

      This hub really touched me. No matter what way our child leaves us, it is a lesson of letting go, and usually not an easy thing.

      In your case the rebellious daughter choosing to leave home one month before graduation would have felt like a slap in the face; I appreciate your candid remarks about wanting to throttle her. I can relate. My youngest daughter (my second born) was the opposite of daughter #1 and rebellious as well. She later told me, "I knew what I was doing-I needed to get all of my rebellion out before I college." I told her, "that's great, why couldn't you have shared that with me?" Her response? "Then it wouldn't have been a rebellion!" Everything turned out well, but during those years-I got a lot of gray hair.

      It was not easy to see my first born off to kindergarten, and then later, to college. By the time the second came to age it was a bit easier. Great hub! UP/Sharing.

    • tlpoague profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from USA

      I have to agree. Some days I felt I was ready for them to leave, while others I didn't want to let them go. Like you said, it went from utter chaos to near silence. It has still taken me awhile to adjust. I come from a large family, so it is weird for me to try to adjust to all the silence and lack of a schedule. Things are working out well with our daughter. She is getting married soon and has a beautiful little baby now. Even she admits that looking back she never thought about what we would be going through when she made the choices she did.

      Sorry I didn't respond sooner. Things have been a bit more busy than I expected. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

    • tammyswallow profile image


      6 years ago from North Carolina

      I tear up as I read this. I never, ever understood those people who could not wait until their kids left the nest. In two years, my sons and my baby brother (all one year apart) left home. It was a real emotional challenge for me. I was used to utter chaos and went to near silence. I think your hub will help moms like me that never want to let go.

    • tlpoague profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from USA

      Thanks 2besure, I could only imagine how difficult it would be to let your only child go.

    • 2besure profile image

      Pamela Lipscomb 

      6 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Letting your children go is one of the most difficult things, I have experienced. Especially because it was my only child. It is the natural order of things.

    • tlpoague profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from USA

      Thanks Sharon, Sorry I didn't comment sooner. My daughter just had a baby two days ago. We are thrilled! It is difficult to raise a child. Especially if you are on your own. My first three years of motherhood were raising my son and daughter nearly alone while my hubby traveled with the railroad. I, love, love. It may sound harsh that I let them take their knocks, but am there for them, and they know it. They still call us every time they need help or advice on something.

      Thanks again for your offer and stopping by.

    • profile image

      Sharon Wray 

      6 years ago

      Hey, I have raised 3 sons totally alone, my Parents died while I was 16!! My advice is just look at them, they are so beautiful and they didn't cost a dime!!!! The act is love, love, love and no magic answer just be loving and be prepared to be there to help others when they are going through the same ole shizza as my 17 year old son calls it!!!! E mail when you need help and advice and I will be there!!! xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    • tlpoague profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from USA

      Thanks Unknown Spy, As a young adult, it is often hard to picture what we put our parents through until the moment we have our own youngsters. Now that my daughter is having her own baby, she is beginning to better understand what we went through. We have been fortunate enough to work things out with us and have a close relationship again. Hopefully this will help you to have a better bond with your family. Thanks again for stopping by and leaving a comment. Have a wonderful New Year!

    • unknown spy profile image

      Life Under Construction 

      6 years ago from Neverland

      i left home when i was 21..after college, i went straight to the city to find work and came home like 3 days every christmas.. now i know what my family felt :)

    • tlpoague profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from USA

      Thank you TeachableMoments for stopping by. I am sorry I didn't respond sooner. It is amazing how fast time flies and how fast children grow up. If I could change anything about my past, it would be to journal more about the things my children said and did. Each day is a new experience for me to come to a closer understanding of what I as child put my parents through as my children grow up. Enjoy and charish those moments for before you know it...they have flown the coop. Thanks again for your comment!

    • TeachableMoments profile image


      6 years ago from California

      Thank you for such a beautiful hub. My daughter is only 5, but I am already gearing up for what the future holds. Your story brought tears to my eyes because I understand, truly understand, a mother's love. Your children are lucky to have such a loving mother. Great hub.

    • tlpoague profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from USA

      Thanks Real, sorry it took so long to reply. I have been out of town working. I am hoping this will just be a short rebellious streak and that she will snap out of it soon. It is weird to have the house so quiet. It took me a bit to get use to at first, but now I enjoy it so I can write. Thanks again for your support and wonderful comments.

      Thanks Rosemay, Despite the problems I have had with her, she has kept me in stitches laughing at some of her and her brother's antics. She reminds me of my sisters and my hubby's sisters. When her boyfriend at the time moved in with us, we took pity on him because of his lifestyle at home. Come to find out, he had more problems than we could help him with, even though we did the best we could. This is going to be one of those times when no matter how much we try to guide her and help her, she is going to be dead set to go her own direction. I guess in some ways I should be proud that she isn't afraid to display her independance we taught her. When I think about it from different angles, I think to could be worse. I hope this helps other parents to realize that it is ok to let go and let you children learn some of their lessons the hard way. The biggest difference is letting the child know that even though you don't agree with their choices, you support them. Thank you again for your support and taking time to leave a comment.

    • Rosemay50 profile image

      Rosemary Sadler 

      7 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

      This is a great hub which most Moms will relate to.

      My son's girlfriend actually moved in with us for about a year before they got married. She had walked out of her home because of the clash with her parents. Besides being good to get to know her well it was also a good opportunity to talk to her and smooth things over and get her to understand just why her parents were so strict. They moved out when they married which was somewhat a relief

      We then moved house which had a self-contained granny flat at the rear. So when my daughter wanted to move in with her boyfriend it was perfect to still be able to keep eye on her and know that she was close. They lived their own lives and paid rent etc. although they usually popped in around dinner time asking what was for dinner :). It was then we took up fostering children after being asked to take in 2 abandoned babies, so they filled the gap somewhat. I found it really hard though to cope with when my daughter and her boyfriend moved quite far away. They broke up after 6 years and she moved home again.

      I didn't have any of the problems with my daughter that I know a lot of Moms do have, maybe it was her easy going character and her incredible ability to always see things from both sides.

      Great hub and voting up all the way

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Tip - My daughter just moved away - she is 23 though so I said it was about time:) lol Just kidding:0 It is SO I can't just wait for her to come home to ask a question - I have to call her! lol She went through a tough period where she was hard to deal with but it was just a bump in the road.

      Good luck - to us both:) lol

    • tlpoague profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from USA

      Thank you ladies for stopping by. Sorry for the long delay in getting back to you.

      @Savanahl, I knew the day she was born she was going to be my handful. I had a breeze of a time being pregnant with my son. His laybor and birth were about eight hours long without pain killers or an IV. My daughter tried coming two months early and when that didn't work, decided she would be four days late, taking over twelve hours and two shots of pain killers to have her. Even the doctor was beginning to wonder if she was going to be born while I was in laybor. (That was one of those had to be there moments...LOL!) Since then, she has been a terrific kid, but one of those that is determined to go her own path, her own way. She has a brilliant mind to go with her determination. It will be interesting when she does settle down, to see what she decides to do. I could write a book on the antics she had done, but combined that with the things both have done and it would be a comedy. Thanks again!

      @Teaches, I am so grateful that this has helped you. I rewrote this a number of different ways before settling on leaving the story this way. I have thought about writing how to cope with a challenging child, but most of her stuff seems timid next to what some of the other teens her age are doing. I have always tried to prepare myself for those moments when my children would be gone, but nothing can prepare you for those moments when it happens quicker than you are ready for. I am grateful that I have my faith. It has helped me out in many different situations. Thanks again for stopping by. I hope to be able to spend more time catching up as things slow down for me. (At the moment, it may be next fall...LOL!)

      @Susan, Thanks for your support and wonderful comments. It is nice when the kids are living close by. For awhile mine lived two doors down from me, but then decided to move. One went east, while the other went west. This still live kind of close, but not as close as I would have liked. Daughters...there is so much I could say about what it is like to have a daughter. They can be quiet a challenge next to boys. My sister, momster, has three boys and always wanted a girl. Then she remembered what she was like and figured she was pretty lucky to have boys. (It is funny to hear her tell her boys that girls are evil once they get to a certain age. You will have to ask her about it someday. It was a pretty funny story.) I have to agree that as a mom, you love to have your children around, but it is nice to have time and space to call your own. I enjoyed my few months of peace and quiet before we had an extra move in. I hate to say it, but I hate sharing my computer...LOL! Thanks again for stopping by!

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      7 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      All three of my sons have moved out, moved back in again and now I have two still here. I loved it when all three were out and on their own. They were never too far away while they lived away. One now lives quite a distance from me and I wish he wasn't so far. I'm sure if I had a daughter I would feel differently.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      7 years ago

      You had me in tears reading through you hub. I can relate to your story and as you mentioned, we can't question our parenting skills and must learn to let go. It is our faith that carries us through the hard times and it is our trust in His Word that brings it to heart. It will get better. Thanks for sharing this part of your personal life because it has brought encouragement to me.

    • savanahl profile image


      7 years ago

      Your daughter reminds me of myself except I ran away at 16. I put my parents through so much but eventually I straightened out and have had a great life with beautiful children of my own (2 boys and 3girls...ugg)Thank you for sharing your story.

    • tlpoague profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from USA

      Thanks Mom!

    • mljdgulley354 profile image


      7 years ago

      Great hub brings back memories


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