how to cope when your first child leaves home

‘There are only two gifts we should give our children: one is roots, the other is wings.’ You may have dreamed about this day when you were a sleep-deprived parent of an energetic toddler. You may have longed for it more recently when your teen chose to view your home as a hotel, and you as their skivvy. Nonetheless, the day your first child leaves home can elicit a mix of emotions, and not all of them whooping for joy.

The Emotions

If you’ve succeeded in giving your child ‘wings’ to enable them to fly the nest, then you’ve done the most important parenting job. So pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself in raising a young person ready to take their first truly independent steps in the world.

However, pride in the moment can be tinged with sadness over what is lost, whilst fears over both yours and their future can also start to creep in The first thing to remember is that mixed emotions when your child leaves home are normal. Indeed, ‘Empty Nest Syndrome’ is a real phenomenon. There is a real element of grief that many experience, a loss of what has been, and fear over change. This is normal.

The trick is to know what to do with these emotions. Firstly, don’t view the nest as empty. The word ‘empty’ brings with it so many connotations, not least the fear that your children are gone never to return. In reality, parenting doesn’t stop the day your child moves out of the home they grew up in. You’ll still be there, in the nest, ready for when nurturing, guidance, and the Bank of Mum and Dad are needed. You’ll still be there for the new memories to build with your adult children, and their families one day. Furthermore, you’ll still be the roots by which they feel firm and secure in their independence.

Next is to consider where you go from here. You’ll also have more room in your house, and hopefully more cash in your pocket for the next stage of life – focusing on you, your relationships with others, your community, and more. Realising this time as an opportunity gained is invaluable in embracing the change it brings. By doing this you have the power not to overshadow your child’s joy or feed into their own anxieties about leaving home.

The Logistics

In reality, children are leaving home later than in modern history. There were a staggering 3.3 million 20-to-34-year-olds living with their parents last year. The tradition of moving out for whether that be for your university or for a new job, never to return, has vastly changed since you were a school-leaver or graduate.

This means that the act of leaving home now tends to be a more on-off, and gradual, occurrence. Young people may leave home only to discover that the job or course is more elusive than they thought, and that house prices and accommodation are painfully high. This situation in itself means parents are faced with a transition whereby their adult children become more like lodgers than family members.

Nonetheless, you will need to manage some of the logistics of your child moving out. Be there to assist with moving out, help them with acquiring everything they will need, and show them you have the confidence in them to do it. Also, establish new norms for communication using Skype, email and text.

The Finances

Again, things have hugely changed when it comes to the finances of a young person heading out on their own for the first time. First-time buyers now need an average of £22,689 in order to get on the property ladder. That’s no mean feat after the cash-poor student years. Being on hand to help financially, if you are able, will help your adult children to feel that you are invested in their future.

Now might also be the time to reconsider your own financial arrangements. Realising the realities of the modern world financially for your adult children may leave you more concerned for their future should you die during these fledgling years. If this is the case, it might be time to rethink your Life Insurance options and consider a specific Over 50s Life Insurance to ensure you do not leave them with any kind of burden in the future.

Now that you have more room around the house, this might be a chance to try and make extra money, renting out a room can be a great way to secure some additional income. You can use this extra income to further support your children financially, or you can even use it to start your retirement earlier.

Cherish This Time

Whilst we’re often reminded to cherish the moments when our children are small, don’t forget to cherish this time too. This is a moment of a Job Well Done, and an exciting phase of parenthood in its own right. Establishing your relationship on the new platform of independence is invaluable for the future, and all that’s yet to come. 

No matter why your child leaves home, whether they’re moving into their first home, or going to university, Shepherds Friendly has created some helpful guides. To find out more visit Renting vs Buying a Home: What You Need To Know, First Time Buyer Checklist and Student Budget Planner for University.