For many parents, whose child is leaving home for the first time there will be conflicting emotions; ranging from extreme pride to unadulterated panic!
- How will they cope?
- Will they eat the right foods?
- Will they eat anything?
- Will they make friends?
- Will they be lonely?
Blimey the list goes on …
But stop for a minute – whilst one child is embarking on a new adventure – there are those in the family who are still “left behind.”
It sucks and I speak from bitter experience.
Many young people are heading off to university or college; but some families may be in the slightly different situation, where their younger child heads off to boarding school for the first time. Whatever the circumstances – the emotions are the same – Believe Me.
I remember vividly – the day my brother left – and how if affected me.
Up until that time, we had lived in each other’s pockets – yes we had our own friends – but we did everything together. William, was my childhood playmate.
- I was there when his finger got slammed in the car door and sliced the top off.
- I was there when mum dangled him over the banisters to dislodge the coin in his throat.
- I “volunteered” to stand in the goalmouth when he needed to fire penalties at someone.
- I was the victim when he needed to perfect his Chinese burn technique.
… and yet we still loved each other.
So when we dropped him off at school for the very first time – I saw my technicolour world turned to black-and-white, overnight. He was going on an adventure and I was getting left behind. ALONE.
I remember the journey back. It was late one September evening – the headlights from the oncoming cars reflecting the raindrops on the windscreen in front of us. Me gloomily sitting on the backseat peering at the space across from me – empty.
I could hear my dad trying to reassure my mum that this was going to be great for him and that everything was going to be alright. That he would have fun. That he would meet friends. That he would have new opportunities.
But very little was said to me.
There I was – curled up in the dark wondering what I had done wrong. I was 9 years old.
For the days and weeks that followed, everything was different. The house was quieter.
- No longer was the front lawn packed with screeching children playing football together – feeding their dreams of becoming the next John Toshack or Kevin Keegan.
- No longer were there squabbles over who would sit on Dad’s knee whilst watching Doctor Who, pretending not to be terrified by the Daleks.
- Even my meals changed. Swapping our Saturday’s cooked breakfast to two Weetabix was not much fun (but that’s a story in itself.)
So you see – I get it.
I understand that void when a sibling leaves the nest for the first time, when the family starts to shrink.
In my adult life, when my own children left the nest it was a double whammy. They both left home within two weeks of each other. Thankfully I was prepared. So I threw myself into my work, because after all there were no little chicks that needed attending.
But for many families right now – this is new territory for them.
And, Yes – for a while the family will feel lopsided. For a while you will miss the child who has left. You’ll miss them terribly. Possibly your thoughts will be consumed with worries, with ‘what if’ scenarios, or “how could I have prepared them better?” questions.
All the while possibly, ignoring those left behind.
So, I suggest that this is the time to look after the chick/s who remain.
Here are 6 pointers that might help you all to re-adjust :
- ROUTINES are important : Keep up the routines and the family traditions that you always had. Yes it will be different – but it doesn’t mean that you have to stop doing stuff together, like you used to. Your kids don’t want to feel that just because their sibling is no longer there that the family is disintegrating.
- HAVE FUN : Plan fun family time – giving your child/ren the options to choose what to do. Perhaps a day out or a favourite restaurant; a family movie night or a new privilege. Make them feel special.
- TALK : Talk about their emotions. It’s important to acknowledge how everyone is feeling. They might feel lost or abandoned. However, they might be thrilled! Perhaps they get your undivided attention – or they have the bedroom all to themselves. Whatever they’re feeling – it’s not wrong.
- EXPLORE : They might need ways to communicate with their brother or sister. Social media is a great way for them to keep in touch. This will help the younger child realise that their sibling is not ‘gone for good’. Maybe ask them to plan a surprise for when you are next together again.
- FOCUS on activities at home : Whilst your child who has left home might be exploring their new surroundings and their ‘new life’ – help those at home acclimatise to the new family dynamics. But also help them understand that life goes on – school and chores continue… not everything is different.
- BE KIND : Change can often be very unsettling. Give each family member the time and the space to adjust to the new situation. There may be a few tantrums and arguments – or maybe broken nights sleep as everyone adapts to the new status quo.
These milestones do have a habit of shaking up the family – but rest assured, it will be short lived. Life gets easier and time has a great way of softening the blow.
Give everyone, including yourself, the love and understanding that you need to familiarise yourselves to your new situation.
Your children leaving the nest is a sign of YOUR success. This is the circle of life and whilst it may be hard – you are raising your children to become young, happy well adjusted and independent young adults. So, them leaving home is just another step along that path. You are doing everything right. Well Done x
Much Love 💕
Supporting Parents Build a Mentally Healthier and
Happier Generation of Young People