Leaving home for the first time is a bit like your first kiss.
You spend years imagining what it will be like and how you will feel 0 and when it finally comes around you feel that nauseating combination of excitement and fear.
Moving out of your family home is one of the biggest transitions you will experience in life. While the thought of leaving your parents’ rules, your annoying little brother, and going to college or starting a new job can be exhilarating, it can also be overwhelming.
The good news is, feeling nervous or overwhelmed is completely normal and there are ways to make your transition to independence a smooth journey.
Making the Decision
There are many reasons that may lead to you leaving home. It may be to further your education, to start a new job, to get your own space or privacy, to live with friends or a partner, or it may be due to conflict with your parents or siblings.
If the decision is your choice, don’t make a rash decision that might put you in an unsafe environment, without money or in a position where you need to move back home again soon. Stop and think about all the avenues available to you such as accommodation, money and support.
Signs You Are Ready to Leave Home
Getting advice from someone you trust before you make the decision to leave home can be a good idea. Discussing your options with a friend or family member who has been in a similar situation before, may help you to gain a realistic picture of what to expect. Some important questions to ask yourself include:
- What are the emotional, physical, mental and financial advantages and disadvantages of moving versus staying at home?
- What impact will this decision have on my life now and in the future?
- Do I have realistic expectations?
- Do I have safe and secure accommodation to go to?
- Can I afford to move out?
So You’ve Decided to Leave the Nest … Now What?
After seeking advice, researching your options and deciding that it is time for you to leave the nest, the next step is to make a plan.
There will be many practical things for you to consider when moving into your own place such as: Where will you live? Will you live alone or with other people? Do you have furniture and appliances or where can you get some? How much will it cost to live each week taking into consideration food, rent, electricity, internet, transport etc?
Once you’ve considered these things, you have a practical plan – but have you thought about the feelings and emotions you might experience once you leave, and how to deal with the negative ones?
Leaving home is not always easy. Homesickness, loneliness, stress and anxiety are all common feelings that may come up during your transition to independence. Even the happiest and most confident young people can struggle. There’s the pressure of getting to work on time and doing a good job, managing your university studies or juggling both, not to mention meeting new people, missing family and friends back home, dealing with messy housemates and being responsible for your own health and wellbeing.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to prepare for the changes to come. Some of these include:
- Resolve family stressors – Don’t let a fight with mum influence your decision to move out. Leaving on bad terms can make moving out more difficult for you and your family. Try to clear the air and enter the next chapter of your life feeling confident that once you leave, you will still have their support on the good days and the bad.
- Make plans for a visit home – Whether you are moving up the street or across the country, your family will miss you and want to know how you are and what you have been doing. Keep the lines of communication open, set up a time to Skype, a Sunday family dinner or a trip home for a long weekend.
- Understand that anxiety is not always bad – Anxiety can have a debilitating effect on a person’s day to day life, however it can also act as a protective mechanism. Anxiety in just the right amount can be a powerful motivator, whether you are preparing for a big speech, or moving out of home.
- Make a list of your concerns – Address each concern individually, as breaking them down helps to make them feel more manageable. If you’re having trouble with one, or feeling overwhelmed, ask a family member or friend for help.
Coping after the Move
So you’ve left the nest and are out in the big world on your own. You have moved to a new city and don’t know anyone, you started a new job and your boss is unapproachable, or maybe you have been partying all week at your new college, the fun has worn off and you just want to be back in your old bedroom.
It’s natural to miss home sometimes and there are things you can do to ease the sadness or anxiety on days when homesickness takes over:
- Stay connected to home – It can be helpful to set up regular phone or Skype calls with family and friends back home. Sometimes just hearing a familiar voice is all you need to feel comforted. Keep in mind though, too much time on the phone or social media can prevent you from meeting new people and developing a sense of belonging in your new home.
- Be proactive about making friends – Good friends can protect against loneliness. Rather than isolate yourself, put yourself out there, join a club or sports team, introduce yourself and don’t give up if you don’t make friends with the first person you meet.
- Create a routine – Get yourself into some regular activities. Maintaining a favourite sport or activity helps bring balance and routine back into your life and can help make a new home or town feel a bit more familiar.
- Explore the area – If you have moved to a new town, city or even country, think of it as an opportunity to explore a new corner of the world and discover new things. Find yourself a new local market, park or restaurant. Go for a walk or plan to drive somewhere different every weekend, you never know you may even find yourself an exploring partner or a local to guide you.
- Work on positive thinking – Similar to anxiety, homesickness can make you vulnerable to negative thinking such as “I feel lonely and stressed, why did I move out?” It is not always easy but if you make a conscious effort to think of all the good things about moving into your own house, it is possible to maintain a positive attitude.
- Make your new home feel like home – Make a little project out of getting creative and designing your new bedroom or house. Bring some things that give you fond memories of home, and create a space you feel happy to come home to.
Moving out of home is one of the most significant milestones in your transition to adulthood, not just for you but also for your parents. Taking time to plan your move can help reduce anxiety and help you to feel more positive and confident about starting this new chapter in your life.