How to Know When It's Time to "Leave the Nest"
When should a child "move out" from his parents' house? For college? After college? When he gets his first job?
Who should be involved in the decision? Should it be the child's decision? That of his parents? An amalgamation of both?
What questions should he ask himself before he moves out? What questions should his parents ask themselves before they "let" him?
Here's a list of the issues involved, depending on who you are (parent or child) and whether you think it's too early or too late. (By the way, for the purposes of this hub, "child" could be any age; it's just meant to signify the person in this relationship who's the offspring of the parents.)
And when the child does decide to move out, I've written a great series of reference hubs called How to Get a Great First Apartment.
Parents: You Think It's Early
It might be too early if...
- He frequently commits to chores and then flakes before completing them; if he can't do the dishes occasionally, he's not going to do them and other necessary chores every day in his own place.
- She lies about where she's going and who she's going with; this shows that she is not ready to take responsibility for her actions. And if she can't abide by your rules, she will most likely not set her own for herself.
- He treats his car poorly, constantly denting it or bumping things, and leaving trash in it for weeks; a messy room is one thing, but if he doesn't respect his car, he'll have a hard time managing an apartment.
- She doesn't understand all the money and responsibility involved in moving out; it could be that she just wants to move out because she thinks it'll be cool with no idea of how difficult it will be.
Despite what you want, he may be ready if...
- He has voluntarily taken on some responbility like paying for car insurance or his cell phone bill (yes, some kids do this); he understands that his luxuries cost money and is willing to accept that reality.
- She saves a portion of the money she makes for long-term needs. This proves that she is responsible with her income and thinking about the future.
- He wakes himself up in the morning and goes to work or school every day, even when he doesn't feel like it. Life may not always be fun, but he knows when something has to get done and does it.
- She prepares food for herself frequently and voluntarily does her own laundry. She is proving that she wants the responsibility that living alone will require.
Parents: You Think It's Time
It might be beyond time for you kid to move out if...
- He is making plenty of money to live comfortably in his own home but pays no rent for living with you. In this situation, it's probably time for you to force some responsibility on him (for his own good).
- She seems content at a job you know is below her because it makes just enough money for her to spend. Again, it's time for her to have some responsibility and step up.
You should maybe cut him a bit of slack if...
- He has just gone through a life-altering change (divorce, career change, bankruptcy) and is living with you to get back on his feet. He wants to be responsible with his time and money, and you should help him save both if you can.
- She's still a teen and needs time to earn the money and learn the responsibility to move out on her own.
Children: You Want Out
You may be able to live on your own if...
- You understand the responsibility of starting your life: you will be in charge of everything, from money to laundry, and everything in between.
- You recognize that officially moving out makes it harder to move back in later, as you might feel like you're "admitting defeat". You also have some money saved up in case an emergency rises so you do not immediately have to run back to mom and dad.
- You realize that you'll have no structure of the family unit and might feel very lonely after a while, even with roommates. No one will care what you do except you.
- You set realistic limitations for yourself (partying, spending, etc) and follow them consistently. If no one else is setting the rules, you will have to set some.
You may not be quite ready yet if...
- You pay for absolutely none of the luxuries you enjoy and have no way of paying for them (car, phone, etc). Even if you want the freedom of living on your own, if you can stay at home to save up some money, that's probably a better idea anyway.
- You just want to run wild. You will actually need to be less wild when first living on your own; if you push your limits too far all at once, you'll find yourself in a lot of trouble.
When it's DEFINITELY Time to Move Out...
Children: You Don't Want to Leave
It's okay to stick around if...
- You honestly need the time to gather some money (or some pride) before going out into the world. If you can't afford to move out (and if that's not entirely your fault), it's fair for you to wait to get your feet back under you.
- You go to school nearby and don't want to have to pay for housing; commuting can save a huge amount of money for both you and your parents.
You might want to reconsider moving out if...
- You have plenty of resources to live on your own and just "don't feel like it". Your parents raised you; now they deserve a break if you are well-prepared. It will feel good to take responsibility for your life anyway.
- You have slipped into being too comfortable paying no rent or anything and therefore find yourself in a funk. Maybe the kick in the butt of having to be responsible for everything around you will make you apply for that job you want or ask for a promotion.
The Test Run
In pretty much any case, it might be a good idea to do a "test run" to see how things will work out. If there is any doubt in anyone's mind that moving out will work, try it for a few months.
Parents, stop doing your child's laundry and dishes, and do not cook him any more meals. Require "rent" and "utilities" to be paid on time every month. Don't set any sort of curfew. It may sound silly, but it can be a great imitation for real life.
Kids, take up the responsibility with joy; it's the next step on your way to "freedom"! Pay the agreed amount on time every month (this is extraordinarily important in the real world), and don't do anything stupid like crash your car or stay out all night before a big exam. The better you perform, the more likely it is you'll be successful living on your own.
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I graduated from high school when I was sixteen years old after skipping first and eleventh grades. I turned seventeen that summer and moved out of my parents' house in the fall to live in New York City (why they let me do that, I don't think I'll ever understand).
Since then, I lived with them again for about six months while I worked in their town, but am otherwise completely moved out of their house. Unlike other college kids, I don't go "home" for the summer because my home is my apartment; my old room is now my father's office and a guest room.
While I was perfectly responsible and may have been "ready" on paper to be on my own, I still sometimes wish I lived with my parents. It offers a security that you don't realize until it's gone.