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Suggestions to Parents for Helping Kids Leave Home

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1.) Stay involved. Don't listen to those who tell you to boot them out, sink or swim, force them to grow up. The goal is not to separate--it's to separate and stay connected. You and your children deserve and need to maintain connection with each other. But do recognize that as your kids grow, your relationship with them changes. Be ready to surrender some authority gradually, as you and your children work towards more of a peer relationship, and realize that just as kids are different and grow at different paces, the leaving home process too is different and paced differently for each family.
Keys2.) Be aware of your family's history, rules, and rituals about leaving home, saying goodbye, and staying connected. While avoiding judgments about who was good and who was bad, decide what to keep and change from the experience of previous generations. Learn from the past, tap into available strengths and wisdom, and repay your parents by doing as well or better with your children.
3.) Work on your marriage. As kids grow and leave home, parents will have more time (either with and for each other or not). Parents need to think of themselves primarily as a married couple and to rediscover all the special joys of that relationship. When marriages need help and spouses don't provide it or get it, their children may be even more reluctant or ambivalent about leaving home than they usually are.
4.) Don't be fooled or discouraged by anger. Anger is a predictable part of the leaving home process. You love your children, and believe it or not, they love and respect you, and it's hard to say goodbye -- it hurts to leave those you love even if it is time. So a little anger--I'm not talking about violence, or other destructive behavior--some bickering, some unexpected challenges to authority, should not convince you that your relationship with your son or daughter is suddenly going sour. It may be the family's way of preparing for the sorrow of "goodbye."
5.) If anyone in the family needs help, get help for everyone from a family therapist who can recognize and respect what is strong, wise, and sincere in your family and can help you use that to accomplish your goals, in this case a comfortable, appropriate separation that fosters a sense of connectedness and mutual respect for all members of your family.

Comments, questions, or suggestions?  Please, email me.

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Jonathan P. Levine, CSW
2300 West Ridge Rd.
Rochester, NY  14626
(585) 225-0330

Updated on 06/27/2002
2002, Jonathan P. Levine, CSW