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How to Know When It's Time to "Leave the Nest"

Updated on February 27, 2008
Your child's teddy might be ready to leave home, but is she?  (Photo by Chrissi Nerantzi)
Your child's teddy might be ready to leave home, but is she? (Photo by Chrissi Nerantzi)

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.

You see the light of freedom, but are you ready to walk through that door yet?  (Photo by David Schauer)
You see the light of freedom, but are you ready to walk through that door yet? (Photo by David Schauer)

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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My Story

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.


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    • profile image

      lugo 6 years ago

      So do u think that a person should move out if he/she feels that they receive no respect at all in their home

    • helenathegreat profile image

      helenathegreat 9 years ago from Manhattan

      Hi Lori, thanks for sharing your story. While I certainly cannot tell you exactly what you should do, I definitely support you in your decision to make your children understand that they must respect your house if they want to live in it.

      I think that directly after high school is a great time for a kid to take a break. I don't know your son's reasons for not wanting to get a job, but I think it would be fair for you to give him perhaps the remainder of the school year (since he is graduating early) to kind of "wander."

      On the other hand, your instincts here are correct; you do not want him to think he can get comfortable just skateboarding and working part-time. Encourage him to get a part-time job that will look great on his resume (maybe he could assist a local electrician for a while), and the part-time aspect of it will still allow him to relax and evaluate where he wants to go.

      Set boundaries so he doesn't get stuck feeling too comfortable, but allow him enough room. There is no other time in someone's life like the time right after high school. He still has his parents to support him, so he can try things without fear of failure.

    • profile image

      Lori 9 years ago

      I have 3 teenagers. Two Boy and 1 Girl. The oldest is my son and he will be turning 18 in a month and also graduating early from High School. All of my kids have been pretty good..little ups and downs here and there but nothing that we all couldn't straighten out in the end...Anyway my oldest has shown me that he respects others, takes care of his stuff and likes a clean house. But the problem I am having is that he doesn't want to get a job. I have done everything to even driving him around to put in applications. We both have talked about his future and he had said for several years that he wanted to become an electrician. I thought great. Now that he is almost 18 he has turned into a different person. He said he doesn't want to become an electrician and he wants to skate board and get a part time job. He constintally throws out the statement "Im movin out when Im 18" "Im getting a tattoo when Im 18" "Im gonna get a motorcycle when Im 18." And in the last 6 months he has started little conflicts for no reason and runs out the door. He then says I am not coming home and he doesn't want to have any rules. sheesh... We are not strick parents and give our kids the room to grow only if they have shown responsibility in their own actions. Each time my oldest comes back home from his running away he says he is sorry and he wont do this again...A week after my son ran away, my youngest child, my daughter decided to play the same thing. She came back the next day after she got to go do what I told not to do...I have had it...We finally sat all of our kids down and told them the the house door is not a revolving in and out for abuse. Our home is to respected for all that live in it and if you choose to leave than dont think it will be easy to come back..Not sure if that is the best but I feel this will stop inconsistancies with all our kids... Now my oldest will be 18 soon and he still shows no sign of getting a job or seaching out a career..What do I do?

      Lost Mom

    • helenathegreat profile image

      helenathegreat 9 years ago from Manhattan

      Thanks for weighing in, Marmalade! It happens naturally for lots of people, too, like it did for you and your kids. Your "We did not mind" warmed my heart. :)

    • MrMarmalade profile image

      MrMarmalade 9 years ago from Sydney

      Our children never made it look imposible by desigh, by job,

      by inclination, Chasing the dream.

      What ever the reason they moved at an appropriate time.

      Never causing the the question to be asked or negotiated.

      Strangely enough at one time or another they all drifted back for a short while, one for a longer period.

      We did not mind.

    • best of the web profile image

      best of the web 9 years ago from US

      Good one.

      Thanks for sharing

    • helenathegreat profile image

      helenathegreat 9 years ago from Manhattan

      Whitney05 -- I think a lot of people do what your cousin did, where the parents pay for the kid's rent, at least partially. I was very lucky that I got MORE scholarships and grants than the price of tuition (though the applications weren't fun), so that extra went towards the very high rent on my apartment. If I hadn't had that money, I would definitely still be under my parents' wings.

      stephhicks -- Thanks, and I'm glad you enjoyed the video! ;) It cracked me up, too.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 9 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      A very informative, thorough Hub! Great job - and I have to say that video is priceless! LOL

    • Whitney05 profile image

      Whitney 9 years ago from Georgia

      I did a trial run, so to speak. But it was a bad one. I moved out without telling my parents I was doing so. My boyfriend picked me up from work, took me home, and we gathered my things. I went back to work. My grandmother caught me in the mean time, and made me promise to call my mom, but she didn't realize I was getting my things to leave. I lived with my boyfriend and his grandparents for 6 months before making the rash decision to move back home, which was btoh the best and worst decision I've made.

      I had to pay for food and everything on my own, and didn't have to pay for other household bills. But, because my boyfriend didn't work most of the time I was there, we went broke fast on gas and food, alone. It was hard, and I'm ready to leave home again, but I want the right amount of money first this time... And a job, as I'm currently jobless.

      My litle cousin moved out when she graduated, but her parents pay her house rent (in the divorce agreement since she's in college plus she moved into her mom's new husband's old house). She doesn't have to pay for anything but gas and sometimes food. And, she still struggles bc she only makes $75 a week.

    • helenathegreat profile image

      helenathegreat 9 years ago from Manhattan

      Thanks, Marlo! I saw that photo on a stock photos website and knew I HAD to use it for this hub. I'm glad the message translated to my reader, as well.

    • MarloByDesign profile image

      MarloByDesign 9 years ago from United States

      Excellent, high-quality hub! I love the picture of the bear and the suitcase - classic...