There comes a time in every parent’s, and child’s life where separation is no longer just wishful thinking. The kids are moving out, shipping out or leaving the nest, whatever you want to call it. As a parent this will initially come as a strange sort of shock. Images of pillage and carnage will race through your brain and fear for where they’ll get their next meal will cause you to pace the carpet, chew your nails and lose your hair. After a little time you will have these funny little thoughts creep up and scream over the top of all that worry. What are these thoughts? They are the reminders of what your life used to be like, BK, before kids, that is. Great now you can add another emotion, guilt. It will plague you all day long and throughout the night. You’ve been a parent now for at least a minimum of eighteen long years and you simply can’t help these natural and normal feelings. Well I’m going to clue you into a few things that every parent should know before moving day arrives.
Understanding Your Child’s Perspective of Time
When little Johnny or The Reigning Princess makes the announcement that they have plans to move out you should never be taken by surprise. When they start getting to the driving age you might as well start thinking about the prospect of them leaving. In case you didn’t notice amidst all the fun of teaching your teen to drive, driving is the first step towards real and true independence. We are giving them deadly weapons that move at threatening speeds as a right of passage. We are telling them that we trust them enough to take their lives into their own hands when they are in that seat. So my first tip to all you parents is to be aware of its coming.
Usually when a kid comes home and says they’re moving out they mean it as “someday” they plan to live on their own. There is a time though, when the tone of their voice and the tilt of their head as they say it, causes you to sit up and pay attention. This time they mean now. Keep in mind that most teenagers have absolutely no concept of time. To them three weeks ago was “like forever.” So when your teen says now, they literally mean now. This gives you very little time in which to formulate a plan to ease your own fears and assure that your child will live to see another day.
Start Planning Early
Back during the driving phase you should have started putting a plan in place. Preparation is key! As soon as you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that moving day is quickly approaching start probing your teen with questions. Where are they going to be living? Will they be in the same town as you? What do they plan on doing once they are there? How do they plan on making money? Last but not least, what part of their livelihood do they expect you to pay for? Then take that information and start making a plan. The Plan or Operation Move Out as I call it should require everything it would take if it was you that was moving. Here are a couple of things you can do to prepare yourself early on before they reach the ripe old age of eighteen.
Put together a small savings for your child. You may as well face it; you WILL be forking over the dough. That’s what all good parents do. It will cost you a few grand depending on what area of the country you live in. My oldest daughter recently left home and moved down to southern California. She decided to attend the Paul Mitchell Beauty Academy in Costa Mesa. We weren’t given the option to say no. She was going to go whether we helped her or not. This child had absolutely no money. Her cell phone bill was a couple of months late on top of it. I knew there were stormy days ahead when I heard the creak of my husband’s wallet and he grumbled under his breath as he moved through the house. Had we planned on this event, we could have stashed five or ten bucks a week to the side and that money would have moved our daughter out with minimal damage to our current funds. So start hiding the quarters and gather your nickels. Save your cans, recycle your bottles and keep that money away from anyone who might want to borrow it.
Plan to hit garage sales and visit thrift stores to start collecting your child’s future furniture. I found two rocking recliners for my son at the good will store for $10 a piece and were in very good shape. You wouldn’t believe how much furniture you can buy at the good will for $10. I also bought my daughter a coffee table; the old sturdy wooden kind that didn’t have legs to get broken. Once your child is old enough to rent a limo for the prom they are old enough to have their bedroom set up like a studio apartment. The plan is to prepare them to live on their own isn’t it? This furniture will move easily into their new apartment and your bank won’t be quite so broke because you won’t be buying so much furniture at one time.
Household items make great gifts. When you do your Christmas shopping, birthday shopping or any other shopping that might result in a gift for your child make at least one or two of them some sort of household item. Last year I stuffed my daughter’s stocking with kitchen hand towels. They were really cute ones that I knew she would get a kick out of even though it would be a while before she needed them. When you start purchasing things like pots, pans, dishes, towels, lamps and things of that nature make your first stop Big Lots and from there find your local 99 cents store before you hit Target and Wal-mart. Did you know they sell silverware at the 99 cents store? You can buy all their cleaning supplies including mops and brooms there as well. Think cheap. Remember this is the same child that still has two months of growth under the bed. Let them work and save for the nicer more expensive things. They’ll appreciate it and take better care of it if they are the ones that pay for it.
Once your child is old enough to drive never, ever give them money. Make them earn it. You might struggle with this decision in the throes of a major teenager uprising but take a deep breath, count to ten and remind yourself that if you hand over that twenty dollar bill you will be doing it for the rest of your life. Give them ways to earn the money. Let them vacuum out the car. They want to drive it don’t they? Let them run errands for you or baby sit their siblings. It’s kind of a, you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours, kind of thing. This teaches them that in the real world there is no free lunch, honey! Life is hard sometimes and it takes work to manage it. If your child spends all his money let him feel what it’s like to be broke. It’s better for it to happen at sixteen under mom and dad’s roof then 34 living across the country in a homeless shelter. Don’t do your children a disservice; prepare them for life as an adult.
Things Your Child Will Not Think About
Do not expect your child to know what renting an apartment entails. They’ve dreamed of it and fantasized about it. Shoot, you’ve even dreamed and fantasized about it. But that doesn’t mean they understand what it takes. Unless you sit down with them and specifically explain that things like water, garbage, sewage, telephone, cable, internet and laundry facilities do not automatically come with the place they will just naturally assume it’s the law of nature as this has always been provided for them. Every parent should begin explaining the basics of these things to their children as soon as they are old enough to know what a bill is. Directly express to them that they share in the usage of these items and that you have to pay them individually, and then go for the gold, teach them to conserve.
Health insurance, what can I say? Teenagers think they are indestructible because they’re so young and healthy and consequently they have no clue about health insurance. Start teaching them early and when they are old enough to drive let them go to a regular doctor’s visit by themselves. You can always call the doctor later to find out what he or she said to your child. You can even schedule a few regular check-up visits solely for this purpose. This gives them an opportunity to use their insurance card, sign forms (only some forms can be signed by a minor) and get a feel for what it’s like to be alone in a clinic or physician’s office. Your teen will probably come home feeling very grown up and should be rewarded for it, doctor offices can be very scary. Once they’ve moved out you will most likely have to continue to help out with health insurance. Be forewarned though, that unless your child is a full time student or can be claimed as a dependant on your taxes many laws prevent you from carrying them on your policy past the age of 19. Your child will probably not be thinking of health insurance so you will have to take it upon yourself to see to it that they have it.
Once you and your child have established a place of residence for them including the address you should begin taking the steps needed to finalize the move with your teen. Some of this you will have to do yourself to make sure it happens. Run to the post office and pick up a change of address form. Have your teen fill it out right there with you next to them. Then one day while you’re out running errands have them ride along with you and swing by the post office because you’ll just happen to have their change of address card with you. Let them take the responsibility of putting it in the slot themselves. It gives them a feeling of accomplishment. Take a trip to the DMV, make up a good reason so it doesn’t seem to obvious and take your teen with you again. This time have them change their address while they are there. See how this works? If you leave it up to them it will never get done and you will receive all their junk mail as well as important mail that may sometimes be time sensitive.
My last tip is for all parents to know and understand that your child will most likely not hear a thing you have to say on the matter. They don’t care about couches or where the mail goes. They only have visions of total unadulterated freedom in their eyes. Do not expect your child to do what you suggest and be ok with it. Once they leave the nest you no longer have a say so in their life and be assured that, yes, they are going to do some really stupid things. All you can do is prepare them and then prepare yourself because when they are gone you are going to have an empty house and suddenly lots of time on your hands. What will you do with it? But that’s a question for another article I’ll be writing later.