When your child moves away from home, the change can be both welcome and fear-inducing for your family. Is your son or daughter savvy enough to survive on his or her own?
Similarly, Margo M. is concerned that her 17-year-old daughter, who plans to move out when she turns 18, might not be mature enough to thrive in the world beyond her home. For moms like Margo and Gale whose children will soon fly the coop, Circle of Moms members offer five things all teens should know before leaving the nest.
1. Self-Help Skills
By the time children are teenagers, most moms think they should know basic self-help skills like picking up after themselves, how to do laundry, how to make a few simple meals, and the importance of basic nutrition. But if your child needs a crash course before moving out, several moms suggest a test of those skills before he leaves home.
A member named Jewelee shares that a friend of hers locked up the kitchen and told her son to buy his own food, do his own laundry and cleaning, and pay rent and utility bills. After three weeks, the son was broke, dirty, and finally realized what he needed to know to survive on his own. Jewelee says it made him love and respect his parents more than ever.
Similarly, Pati H. began talking to her daughter when she turned 16 about the realities of getting a job and moving out, going to school and working. Since her senior year in high school, her daughter has been responsible for getting herself up and ready for school, making her own breakfast and lunch, and doing her own laundry and banking, and as Pati relays, it has no always gone smoothly:
"She has had a few days of going hungry at work or school because she didn't have enough time to get ready and eat and or bring food. She also hates the bank, but I won’t make her deposits, so she's run out of money a few times and I won't assist her on those occasions."
The "tough love" tack might sound harsh, but giving your child guidance while letting her test her self-help skills is one of the best things you can do to prepare her for moving out, says Rachael S., who moved out of her own parents' home when she turned 17. "I learned to be responsible and independent, and my mom always supported me in every adventure I took," she recalls.
2. Money Management Skills
Whether your child is headed for college or a job straight out of school, a cornerstone of responsible adulthood is being able to manage your own money to pay for basics and extras that range from rent, utility bills, clothing and food to gas, cell phone bills, car insurance, and entertainment. To that end, several Circle of Moms members suggest parents teach their teens how to create and stay on a budget, as well as how to balance a checkbook.
"This is the No. 1 thing college kids have no clue about," says Beth H. "Money slips through their fingers with pizza, beer (oh yeah), soft drinks between every class instead of a water bottle, gas for running around … Money isn’t understood until there is none left, and then they call home or their grandparents."
With that in mind, Beth suggests teaching your teen now how to live on a budget while she's still at home so that she will be able to do it later on her own. She also cautions against giving your child a credit card without pointers about shopping wisely, advice that a member named Elisa also chimes on:
"[Your child will] be able to keep a budget better if she knows how to get the best deals and how not to succumb to impulse purchases. For example, for basic supplies like notebook paper, pens, ramen, paper towels and cleaning supplies, dollar stores are best," she explains. Money also can be saved by buying used books, comparison shopping online and using coupons.
3. How to Be True to Himself
It’s especially important that your child knows the importance of maintaining her individual values once he's out on his own, whether trying to fit into a new community at college or in the larger world. Teens need to be reminded that they don't have to keep up with the Joneses, Beth H. says. "Teach [your child] that she doesn't have to wear what everyone else does. Some people are going to always have more money and cooler clothes."
More importantly, teens should be strong enough to avoid and say no to the hazards that accompany drinking, drugs and sex, Beth says, noting parents should talk to their children seriously about the subjects. "Talk to [your daughter] about date rape, alcohol poisoning, drinking and driving, which drugs do what, and what different drugs look like. I’m very glad I did this; my daughter recognized some drugs I had told her about and looked up, and kept her friends from trying them," Beth says. "They were not safe nor would they have gotten high … they would have been dead."
Along with assessing values, moms should help their children examine their social readiness before they move out, says Kristi H. She attended a large state university five hours away from her home, and recalls that she didn't have enough self-confidence to develop healthy relationships beyond her circle of friends at home: "I gained weight and felt depressed. I didn’t do well at my classes at all." Consequently, she feels parents should help their children understand themselves and their needs before they leave home.
To do this, Christine S. suggests parents discuss "what-if" situations with their teens, helping them practice how to make informed decisions in these hypothetical scenarios.
4. Emotional Support from You
"Parents have to trust they’ve laid a strong foundation, and then let [their children] struggle a bit, with gentle guidance," Christine S. says. In other words, if your child is ready to move out, then let him. The flip side of this bit of wisdom is that pressuring your child to stay home is likely to make him want to move out even more. "That is the nature of teenagers," Jackie W. warns.
Neener P. agrees with both women, noting that if your teen feels he's ready to move out, you really have no choice but to let him go. "Be willing to let [him] go be an adult with [your] full support. The last thing you want [your child] to feel is that [he's] obligated to keep the apron strings attached because you need [him] too much," she says. "[He'll] go if [he's] determined to. You don't want [him] to go out there feeling like [he] can't come back with [his] tail between [his] legs if [he] needs to because [he'd] have to face, 'I told you so' from Mama," adds Neerer.
5. The Knowledge That You're There if Needed
Rachael S. agrees that the best thing a mom can do when letting a child go is to keep the lines of communication open. She's one of several moms who caution against letting a child back into your home too soon if he changes his mind. "Do not let them quit quickly any more than you have allowed them to quit anything else. Life does not allow that of them," says one of them, Nancy P., noting that the late teens and early twenties are a key time for individual growth.
Anne W. illustrates this point with a story about her daughter, who took between four to six weeks to get over her initial bout of homesickness. By sticking it out, Anne says, she came out of the experiences a much stronger person, more determined to pursue her purpose in life.
So if your child wants to come back home, what do you do? Let him know that you’re there for him, says Wendi M.: "Ask lots of questions without being too snoopy, and text, call, and get on Facebook as much as possible to stay in touch" and offer support.
Bev M. even bought her son a cell phone for graduation and entered her number at the top so he'd know she's there for questions. "Rarely did he ever call for help. He learned to figure it out, but knew I was there," she reports.
No matter how well prepared your child is, moms almost always struggle with letting go, but Anne W. reminds that as parents we're not so much raising children as we are raising "future adults." And Wendi reassures that the sadness is to be expected: "Letting go and doing it without pain and a hole in your heart will be one of the hardest things a mother has to do, but it’s all a part of life."
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.