Q: My son seems to be having a harder time leaving home than I did when I was his age. Do you think it’s just him, or is it this whole generation? And what can I do to support him but not enable him?
A: “Leaving home” is such a difficult concept, don’t you think? Home is safety, home is unconditional love, home is food, and clean clothes, and hugs. Why would anyone want to leave that? Maybe so they can create their own home. I not only think it’s necessary to leave home, I think it’s crucial to your son’s well-being.
And yes, I happen to think there’s something hurting in this current generation that’s faced with the “cruel world.” I think we as parents were probably not too coddled as kids, so when we had children of our own, a lot of us swore that we weren’t going to deny our kids the way we were denied.
Poor us! I remember being bored, and complaining to my mom. She said, “Well, go to a nursing home and read to some elderly people then!” She didn’t want to hear about it - there was plenty to do.
But not us - no, we’re “good” parents - when our kids are bored, we jump in and say, “Oh, what can I do? Do you want to go to the mall? Come on, I’ll buy you something.”
The kids get used to being comfortable, of having someone else take care of them and everything in their lives—it may seem great on the surface, but deep down, do they really think they have what it takes to take care of themselves? Have they ever had to prove themselves to themselves by accomplishing some difficult task without Mommy and Daddy jumping in to help? It’s something to ask yourself.
If you are the type of parent that does that - stop right now. It’s never too late. There’s tough love and there’s grandmother love. Tough love is “it’s time to leave the nest now - you go fly - I know you can do it.” Grandmother love is “now now - don’t worry about anything - I’ll take care of everything. Here’s a hug and a cookie.” But that’s not always the best course of action.
Looking at your son I see a very intelligent, sensitive young man that wants to do the right thing but doesn’t know if he’s up to the challenge. Start with something small - like assigning chores that have to be done, then follow up. Praise and acknowledge his responsibility so that he feels good about himself and his abilities.
Now go a little higher up—maybe ask him to take your car in to get the oil changed, or to steam clean the carpets for you, or to help you clean out the garage. Again, follow through, and praise him when he’s done.
Little by little he’ll gain more confidence. Keep telling him you know he can do it. Everyone has to leave their childhood home, and sometimes the longer you delay their leaving, for whatever cause, the harder it gets for them to stretch their wings and fly.
Sure they’ll fall, and that’s hard for any parent to see, but how else are they going to learn unless they try? So let out that umbilical cord a little at a time, give him some room, then finally get out those ol’ parental scissors and cut the cord. You’ll be doing him a world of good (and doing yourself a world of good, as well).
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