Parenting

When Your Chicks Leave the Nest


When my son was 18 (and had finished school), he moved into a flat with two of his mates. They were boys we'd known throughout his high school years and the flat was only ten minutes from home, but I cried for two weeks!

It just seemed to me that a major part of my life was over. When your kids are little, you assume that they're always going to be around, leaving trails of Lego blocks all through the house and dirty rings around the bath-tub from all the mud they've accumulated while building cubby houses down the back yard.

But they're not. They grow up and want to spread their wings and live their own lives.

WHEN YOUR CHILDREN LEAVE HOME

My son told me that the reason he wanted to move out, wasn't because he didn't love us or want to be with us. It was because we'd done such a good job raising him to be independent and confident.

I eventually saw the logic in that and it made me realize that our kids do listen to us. We'd spent the past 18 years encouraging him to march to the beat of his own drum and not to slavishly follow others, and now he was going to do just that.

WHEN THEY RETURN

Within six months, he asked if he could move back home -- it was costing him more than he'd thought it would to live independently (we acted surprised), and since he was at university, he didn't really have enough time to do his washing, shopping, housework AND study ... (we acted surprised again).

NEW WAYS OF LIVING

However, we all knew that it wouldn't work if he moved back and we tried to live as we'd done when he was at school. Besides which, his sister had appropriated his room the same day he moved out! She converted it into a pleasant little study-cum-sitting room for herself and wasn't about to be evicted without a struggle.

Fortunately, we had a rumpus room at the far end of the house, which he turned into his domain. He had his own entrance and could come and go without disturbing us. He could also stay up as long as he liked without us telling him to turn out lights etc.

Basically, all the same rules applied, but the justification for them changed.

We had to accept the fact that he now made all the important decisions about his life, and we couldn't treat him as a child. But he also accepted the fact that he owed us certain courtesies -- he always rang to let us know if he would be late home (so we wouldn't worry and so we could organise meals). He let us know where he was going and who he'd be with (as a courtesy and in case we needed to pass on his whereabouts to friends who phoned).

He's now 30 and married, and both he and his sister have moved in and out of home several times, according to the state of their finances, leases and overseas trips.

The secret to successful, stress-free living with adult children is all in the mind!

HAVE A LITTLE FAITH

Remember that you gave them all their values, beliefs and attitudes and put your trust in the way you've brought them up. You can't afford to criticise the way they do things, (or their taste in music, clothes or friends). Put yourself in their place and remember how you feel when anyone scoffs at something you value, and bite your tongue before you make even a light-hearted comment about their latest CD or hairstyle.

PRACTICAL MATTERS

On a practical note, you should try to provide as much separate living space as you can. Somewhere where your star boarder can have his or her own music, TV, video, computer or whatever is vital. A comfortable chair for reading, a desk for students and enough storage space are also essential.

If you have a room with an ensuite bathroom, it's probably worth giving that up, so that your child has that extra privacy. You and your spouse can go back to using the main bathroom and it will remove another source of potential conflict (criticizing the way the bathroom is left). Visitors will use the main bathroom and that's the one you look after.

With just a bit of planning and co-operation, you can make living with your adult children a real pleasure for everyone.

If the spelling of words like "organise" worried you, please read this: http://www.write101.com/aus.htm

Jennifer Stewart has a degree in English and History and taught senior High School for over twenty years. During that time, she was Head of Department, responsible for devising and implementing teaching programs, and for supervising young teachers. After leaving full-time teaching, she wrote (and now markets) writing courses for students and adults who want to improve their writing skills. Visit her website at http://www.write101.com and subscribe to free, weekly Writing Tips: mailto:WritingTips-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Jennifer also offers professional writing services - copy writing, editing and proof reading for your web pages, press releases, technical booklets, newsletters, business proposals, reports or any other writing projects.


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