Children leaving home is often a source of major readjustment for many parents. They're often amazed at the extent of their emotions when the time approaches for their children to leave home and go to college, university or on a gap year.
For some parents it can be a struggle to accept that their job is nearly over; they have done a good job, raised a happy, well-balanced child who is now confident enough to go off and explore the world. They know they should be pleased, but several factors often hi-jack their happiness and feelings of satisfaction.
Let's look at some of the concerns that can arise when it's time for your children to leave home:
- Who am I now? For many people their lives become submerged in raising their child or children. Family budgets often revolve around children and their education and support. Indeed many families continue to support their children long after they've left home as few initially earn enough to finance themselves. Hours are often spent ferrying children to various appointments, events and classes. Holidays may well be booked with the children's interests as the primary concern.
However, once children reach the age to leave home it can highlight the fact that their parents have, over the years, dropped many of the hobbies, interests and connections they enjoyed before their children were born. It's important to start preparing for this to happen by identifying which interests may be fun or satisfying to adopt in anticipation of this time.
- How do I feel about my partner? The demands of raising a family can mean that a couple become like ships that pass in the night, often crashing into bed exhausted after work, once the demands of the day have been dealt with. Communication between parents can end up becoming perfunctory updates, shopping lists or instructions as the relationship slowly loses its passion and becomes more like a house share between amicable friends.
Whilst this is often understandable it is also important to schedule time to nurture and maintain your relationship. In the beginning you considered your partner to be your friend, ally, supporter and lifetime companion. You were two young people, in love, with shared goals and dreams of building a home and having a family and a life together. Continue to look after your relationship and aim to schedule a regular time or place where the children know you are not to be disturbed unless there's an emergency.
Date evenings, weekends away, country walks, starting a hobby or interest together, meals with friends or cosy suppers a deux where you talk and are interested in each other's lives can be a way to support and invest in your relationship. Plan for the future when you'll be on your own together and arrange activities, maybe a trip, invitations with friends so that there are things in the diary to look forward to.
- The house is so quiet now. Many people find that waking up or coming home to an unusually quiet house is one of the most difficult things to get used to once the children have left home. Start to look at the quiet times as special, a reward for all the years of hard work and being in constant demand.
Enjoy the extra space and maybe claim a room as a study or studio. Invite guests to stay at times and enjoy using your home in a different way. Use modern technology to keep in regular touch with your children. Social media, texting and video calls facilitate communicating with almost anywhere in the world, possibly resulting in you enjoying better quality communications than you did when they were grumpy teenagers living at home.
- I've so much time on my hands. Many of us define ourselves through our role in life, our title, work, the valuable contribution we've made as a parent, provider, juggling all those responsibilities with little thought for ourselves. Once the children leave home it can provide an opportunity to reconsider our role and occupation. If we left work to raise a family reclaiming our old career may not be an option for many reasons.
Maybe we don't need to earn as much money now that the pressure to provide and finance a family has been reduced. Maybe it's time to do something that brings new meaning and satisfaction into our lives, like undertake a different role, function, career. There maybe an opportunity to set up a business, work in charity, retrain or commit to something on a part-time basis. Some people choose to travel more or develop skills and talents they were previously too busy to entertain.
When it's time for your children to leave home it can provide a valuable opportunity to re-evaluate your life. Just as they are starting a new phase in their life, so this too can be an ideal time for you to look at yourself, focus on your relationship and your quality of life and determine where you want to go from here.
Susan Leigh is a Counsellor and Hypnotherapist who works with stressed individuals to promote confidence and self belief, with couples experiencing relationship difficulties to improve communications and understanding and with business clients to support the health and motivation levels of individuals and teams.