So your child is having a pretty hard time getting out of the house and “living up to your expectations”. You might be at a breaking point or pretty close to one. Yet, you (mom or dad) sit back and reflect on “what in the heck did I do wrong?”
The funny thing is that most likely you did nothing wrong.
The age period between 18 to about 25 is difficult for just about anyone. Do you remember a few years back when you (mom or dad) sat at your high school graduation. I bet that 90% of you had “no idea what life would be like in the next ten years” and the other 10% of you, well you are a special breed of your own. With this in mind, remember that change isn’t as easy as 1.2.3.
Milestones are difficult to embrace for the simple fact that change isn’t always easy. I’m a strong believer in believing that the majority of people struggle with change. Transitioning from what you are comfortable with to something new can become a very difficult transition that if not approached in the right manner may be lead to “failure to launch.”
Consider a transition that is “typical or normal” for adults. Let’s take a work transition that your supervisor wants you to make. What if tomorrow, your supervisor wants you to change jobs and pick up new work duties. More than likely you will experience:
- Feel uneasy or uncomfortable.
- Wish that you had the chance to make the change at your own pace.
- Anxiety, stress or worry.
A recent article on the Washington Post highlighted the importance of giving your child support and compassion when leaving the nest.
Your child in some form or fashion has grown accustomed to their current environment. They “are good where they are at.” Your child understands what routines are required, what consequences may take place, and what rewards may be earned.
It took your child quite a while to gain acceptance and comfort with the current state that they are in. So, I ask you, mom or dad, be empathic to your child(s) reasoning for not jumping on board to the idea of getting out of the home or getting a job.
Often there is a root cause to why your child is struggling with change. If you take into consideration the previous paragraph, then you should already be at a starting point.
5 questions that help your child “want” to leave the nest
- What do they like?
- What makes them happy?
- What defines them?
- What would be their ideal situation?
- How can you support your child with their transition?
Finding answers to these questions takes time and energy. Changing also takes time and energy.
When I was in High school, I was asked to write down my one or five-year plan. Most of the time, I put things on their like “become a professional baseball player”; that did not happen of course. The idea of sitting down and brainstorming your entire life can bring about feelings of anxiety and fear. It can also make own feel overwhelmed at times. This is why it is vital that you, have answers to the questions above and practice empathy prior to approaching your child.
1st Way to Approach your child in leaving the nest
Take your child somewhere that is comfortable for them and distraction free.
Ask your child in a positive manner:
“_________ I know that you can do anything with your life that you put your mind to. I wanted to take some time today to brainstorm some ideas about your ideal career and where you would like to live. ________ whatever job you pick or place you choose to live we (your family) will support you and come visit.”
- The above statement highlights the ideal career, where your child would live, and the support given. When you incline that your child will get to work in their ideal career, you as the parent are pushing him/her to feel empowered in the essence that he/she gets to choose what they want to do with their life. The same message stands for (you would like to live).
- Lastly, by stating that you, mom or dad, will come visit your child. Your child will understand that living at home is not an option and that support will be given.
- If during the conversation you or your child become agitated, frustrated or unwilling to continue. That is okay! Stop and move to the 2nd way parents can support their child in leaving the nest.
- One important factor that I left out on purpose is TIME. The duration of time that you, as the parent, expect your child to take in making the decisions and “launching off” will vary. The most effective strategy that you, mom or dad, can do is support your child (NOT ENABLE THEM). Yes, big words – all caps.
- Lastly, support! Be there cheerleader or that guy holding the #1 sign at football games!
2nd Way to Approach your child in leaving the nest
Some kids simply are not ready to leave just yet. To be honest with you it’s often not entirely their fault. Some of the reasons that your child may not be “ready” to leave home and begin college, work, or simply living on their own can be due to:
- Parenting your child in a manner that did not prepare and strategically plan exiting the home.
- Your child may have personal anxiety or worry to leaving home.
- Your child may not understand “why” he/she needs to move out.
Let’s start with the first one mentioned above: “Parenting your child in a manner that did not prepare and strategically plan exiting the home”.
At times, parents simply assume that their child will understand the societal “norm” that it’s time to leave home. Often this benchmark goes right over people’s head. It is truly vital not to blame your child or yourself.
Take a moment to reflect back and truly consider if your parenting approach was effective in educating and preparing your child for the next step in life.
Supporting your child with work, college or simply moving out is a conversation that needs to take place. This conversation can still be accomplished even if you did not do it prior to your child ending high school. Take a moment to sit down with your son or daughter to discuss the expectations and how they feel about it. Be open to consider their feelings about moving out.
Consider asking the following questions:
How can I help you move out?
- I know the process of moving out is difficult. Let’s work together to make a financial plan that will work for you based on your budget and the needed.
- Would it help if you continued to do laundry at mom and dads for a while until you made enough money to do it on your own?
Overall the goal is to support your child in feeling confident and comfortable with the process.
Let’s move to the second statement: “Your child may have personal anxiety or worry to leaving home”.
This is okay.
Do not be alarmed or upset.
Instead ask questions and seek support. Consider asking your child the following questions:
- What about moving out makes you feel anxious or worried?
- If you could name two things about living on your own that would make you feel anxious, stressed or worried what would they be?
- Would you like to work with a counselor on moving out of the home and receiving support with anxiety?
- What can your parents do to support with the worry and anxiety you feel?
Overall, the goal is to support your child in feeling confident and comfortable with the process.
The last statement is: “Your child may not understand “why” he/she needs to move out”.
In reality, this is a perfect question. Why do I need to move out?
It’s such a perfection question because prior to parents asking their kids to move out they were telling their kids to come home. Since the moment your child was born, the basic message was that the home was theirs. All of a sudden the message changes to moving out and making a new home of your own.
In addition to the concept above, there often are cultural dynamics that tie into the equation. I like to think of myself. I am from the Dominican Republic. It is very common for Dominicans to share the home with large families. For instance, it would be common for me to live with my parents and with my wife and children.
It is important for parents to communicate transitioning out of the home in a very similar manner and repetition as the message of calling the home yours. Consider how many times you as the parent reminded your child during their childhood that the home was theirs. You may have said:
- “Come home”
- “This is your house too”
- “Don’t forget you also live here”
- “Keep your room clean”
- “We need your help cleaning the house, it’s your house too”.
Now consider how many conversations you had discussing your child moving out. More than likely not as many.
Again, it’s okay.
You have so much time to work on supporting your child to begin college, work or simply living on their own. The first step is figuring out where you need to start.