From Dr. Jane's Notebook
When Children Leave Home
Summertime offers the opportunity for a change of pace at work, at play and in
parenting. Some children go off to camp, children of single parents may change their
residence for the summer months, and others are afforded the opportunity to visit with
distant friends or relatives. Much is written about "empty-nest syndrome" once
children leave home permanently, but few guidelines are given for coping with temporary
changes during the "full-nest" years.
This article is dedicated to those parents who must say "good-bye" to their
children for temporary periods of time.
- It's tough to share our kids. Many parents feel an umbilical cord extending between
their hearts and their children. Any change in the length of that umbilical cord can be
painful. Parents may find it upsetting to share their children with the outside world and
experience a certain amount of insecurity at the prospect of any separation.
- It's tough to say good-bye. No matter what the age of the child, it is difficult to let
go and trust that they will be strong and able to survive. We equip them with information,
money and training, and then we hold onto our hearts are they go on their way. We hold
back on tears, and inspire them with our confidence in them. Children love learning to be
brave and they thrive on our trust. They also need to know that we will be okay in their
- Choose a new focus for your attention. While your children are gone, make the most of
your time-out from parenting. This is your time to grow too. Set personal goals, work on
projects, make new friends. This is no time to get depressed. When your children return,
you too can share news of new interests and experiences.
- It's also tough to say hello. When children return home, they are different. They have
successfully ventured out in the world, they feel some new independence (usually
temporary), and they don't want to be babied. This often makes parents feel a bit distant
or rejected. Fear not! Your children still love and need you, but it is important for them
to preserve their personal growth, self-esteem, and to be treated with respect. If you
find their attitudes obnoxious, step back and allow them to approach you when they are
ready to "be back home."
- The healthiest families are flexible. Whether family members are departing or arriving,
it is necessary for families to reorganize. When people leave, families must close ranks.
When people return, families must open up and allow the returning member the opportunity
to find their space in the family again.
As children grow up, independence is essential, and it is best learned on a gradual
basis. As toddlers, children leave their mother's side for just a moment before returning
to her "safe base". With confidence, they venture farther away for longer
periods of time until they feel comfortable playing on their own. As children grow, every
new experience is an opportunity to "test their wings", and develop greater
self-assurance and courage. As parents, we are charged with the monumental task of knowing
when to hold on and when to let go. Good luck... and best wishes for your summer!
ęCopyright, 1992, 1995,Jane R. Rosen-Grandon. All rights reserved.
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Last Updated October 17, 1998 by Gary M. Grandon,