As the New Year and a new term in your life fast approaches, you’re probably wondering if you’ll actually be able to let your young adult go when the time comes. Although leaving the nest can be hard for (some) kids, they’re going off to experience an exciting new chapter of their life. As a parent being left behind, it can often be even more difficult, especially as you’re much more aware of what’s out there than any young person can possibly be.
These tips may help:
Have a constructive conversation beforehand
If there are particular things you are worried about, sit down with your young adult and discuss them. Make sure you let them know up front that the purpose of the conversation isn’t to nag them, but to:
- Give you the opportunity to raise any expectations or potential issues, so you can come up with solutions together; and
- Give them the chance to ask any questions they may have from their side.
Expect some eye-rolling and possible resistance, and just work with it as best your patience will allow. Then, regardless of the outcome, you’ll know you’ve done what you can, and for the rest, you’ll have to trust to the values you’ve tried to instil in them thus far.
Bear in mind that an important part of tertiary education is exploring who they are. That may involve pushing a few boundaries or going to extremes to find their middle ground. They might behave differently, try out a new look, or make new friends you don’t approve of. Your job is simply to observe and comment only if asked. Interfere only in extreme cases where you’re really worried about your child’s health or safety.
Start a new relationship with them
Let them know you’ll always be there for them and also that, for the most part, you trust that they are ready to stand on their own two feet. So while you’re happy to offer your opinion, if they ask for it, that means making a lot of their own decisions and dealing with the results, whether positive or negative. Then give them space, rather than checking in with them every hour.
When they’re ready to share what they’ve been up to, they’ll do so. In the meantime, you can send them any titbits of news from home so they still feel connected to the family (just don’t expect an immediate reply).
Avoid creating guilt
If you have a particularly close relationship (perhaps as a single parent), your young adult may worry that you can’t cope without them. If you feel grief, loneliness or any other negative emotion, find someone else to talk to or some other way to process it, for example, writing in a journal. Your feelings are your responsibility, so don’t burden your child with them. Rather reassure them that while you miss them dreadfully, you are absolutely fine. In fact, you have plans…
Without making them feel like you can’t wait for them to go, start making plans for any free time their absence will leave you with. Perhaps you simply want to relax and enjoy some quiet time for a while. Or maybe you’ve been thinking about exploring a new hobby (or revisiting an old one) or learning a skill you’ve always wished you had. Now’s the time.
The important things here are to send your child off as positively as possible, and to make sure you have something interesting to look forward to. That way, your child will feel secure in the knowledge that you’re fine, and they can return home or rely on your support whenever they need it.