Moving out? Here's how to prepare yourself and your clingy parents

When planning to move out, you need to prepare mentally and financially to survive.

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What you need to know:

For many parents, the day their child is born comes with excitement, confusion and some feel overwhelmed. From that moment on, a seemingly long, winding journey called parenting begins. Caught up in the little moments; like the baby’s first words, the first steps, first day of school, getting rid of the milk teeth, nurturing talents, winning trophies, adolescence, mood swings and so much more. The journey is as fulfilling as it is consuming. Then one day, “out of nowhere” your little baby says, “It’s time for me to move out”. You think you heard wrong but they follow it up with, “I already found a house I can move into”. Some parents take it easy, but others...

How will you handle that moment when it comes? And why is it important for you to not only let go but learn to create boundaries long before that moment? What prompts children to seek a life of independence?

Facing reality

For Owino Princely, 21, that decision was gradual. “I first moved out in 2021, when I joined college. I was 19 at the time and I would go home over the weekends as often as possible. By the time I completed my coursework, I knew I wanted to continue living by myself. I assumed my parents would continue paying my bills as I looked for a job. I never talked to them about this, I just imagined they would not have a problem with such an arrangement. I guess I was used to being given without asking.

But soon after I completed my studies, I realised that was not going to happen. I decided to move in with a few friends. We split the rent and utility bills which made it easier for me to survive out here. I was surviving on part-time gigs here and there but when things got too tough, I went home briefly to figure things out. And after a lot of critical thinking, I figured I would still be better off moving out of my parents’ home. I wanted to grow, gain exposure and to experience what it’s like to start from the bottom and build myself up. I didn’t think I would attract the kind of growth and opportunities I was looking for if I continued to stay in my comfort zone.

My parents’ home is in a suburb where everyone stays in their spaces. It’s a long distance from the CBD and other commercial areas, where I could get networking and job opportunities. I realised I spent more time indoors, and I would never get an opportunity to showcase my skills. I love fashion and I have many other skills; I didn’t even know I had. In January, this year, I decided to give myself another chance but this time I moved out on my own.”

So far, Owino says moving out is tough and enjoyable at the same time. Having to create a financial plan and learning how to spend wisely is one of the biggest adjustments. In addition, it can be lonely, living alone and there is a lot pressure to grow and be better as fast as possible, even though he knows success will eventually come. There are a lot of temptations and freedom comes with responsibilities.

The cost of living has been the most shocking to him. “Going to the supermarket and seeing the price tags is always shocking. I’ve had to cut down on cost a lot. Socialising is also a different ball game out here. I was blind to a lot of things but I’m learning to read through people and see the small things that people do. I communicate better because I no longer suppress my opinions and feelings”.

Building character

Despite the challenges, he believes this is an opportunity to learn and grow. “I ventured into social work and I realised I have the ability to talk to and educate my peers about serious issues. I’m very social and I network a lot when I’m outdoors. I’ve met a lot of people who exposed me to opportunities that led to my career as a peer educator. If I was at home, I would not meet these people or come across the opportunities I’ve attracted. Moving out has also helped me build my character. When I was at home my mum used to teach me stuff like ‘always doing the right thing and that the truth will always come to light’. Being out here has made me realise the value of these lessons and I’m putting them to use especially in the professional world”.

On whether there is a specific age or time when children should start moving out, Owino says, it cannot be a black and white issue. It depends on what you want and whether you can achieve it faster or better by leaving your parents’ home. But if you feel you can achieve the same things while in your parent’s home it’s okay too. However, Owino insists, one has to be ready before moving out.

“You need to prepare mentally and financially to survive. You also need maturity and discipline to live within the society, without the supervision of your parents. Personally, I did not prepare well financially. If I were to go back and do it again, I would take a bit of time to save for the move. I would also ask for insights from people who’ve been out here to understand what I should expect.

My ultimate advice to anyone contemplating the big move; make sure you are comfortable with the decision and have a good reason. Know your financial limits and decide what you can afford for your rent, daily expenditure, monthly shopping, transport and utilities. Don’t cut ties or treat those you’re leaving behind badly, because they are still your family. If you are making more than enough, be generous, give back. Call your parents often and let them know you are fine. Once you get started on your own, try to build a community of people you can trust. Life is not easy and you need emotional and sometimes even financial support. Being connected to people makes life bearable.

Fear of the unknown

As easy as it seems for young people to just move out and establish independence, it is not. And it’s even harder for parents. Some parents will take it so hard, that they will cut ties with their children while others try to block and prevent them from leaving. Parent Coach, Anthony Kinyanjui Nene from Parenting Coach Institute says, “Fear of the unknown is one major contributing factor. Questions such as, how will my child survive on their own or who will take care of them can make the parent struggle to accept this new reality. If the parent is over-dependent on this child, it will be hard to let them go. Parents who have only one child are also likely to hold on for longer.”

One other thing that parents do not consider is their over-reliance on their children- be it emotionally, financially or with daily tasks around the house. In some families, children assist in running their parents’ businesses. While there is nothing wrong with this, Kinyanjui cautions against being too dependent on children as this might lead parents to restrain them from leaving.

On the contrary, Kinyanjui says, supportive parents prepare their children with the required life skills, and they have a very healthy relationship with them. They establish open communication channels from the beginning and this prepares them well in advance. “Instead of trying to force children to stay at home for longer, prepare them by equipping them with the necessary skills such as cooking, budgeting, cleaning and decision making among others. Doing this will build confidence in the parents that their children can survive on their own. And when it’s time to finally move out, assure them of your love and support”.

Not ready yet?

There are however, scenarios when moving out should be discouraged. For instance, if your child is underage, it would be irresponsible of you to let them move out. Financially unstable young adults should also be advised to wait a little longer, and perhaps save up to avoid additional expenses on the parents’ part. Financial instability could also compel them to venture into illegal or immoral practices to make money. Lastly, if the child has a chronic condition that requires emergency medical support every so often, it might be a bad idea to let them go. Kinyanjui also says parents need to look out for signs that the child is moving out for wrong reasons, which could include, conflicts or abuse at home which push them to look for peace elsewhere, peer pressure and a lifestyle that is not acceptable at home such as clubbing and drinking. They might also be looking for privacy if the parents are intrusive or the house is congested. If indeed, they are moving out for the wrong reasons, talk them out of it and ask them to prepare for that big move first before rushing things.

Otherwise, if they are fully prepared, accept that they are of age and let go. “Have an open-door policy and let them know they can reach out when they need something. To fill the void, start a new hobby like learning to play an instrument. You may volunteer to do something within the community or start a project to occupy your time.

Playing catch-up

Perhaps your children are still young and you’re thinking you still have time, but you might want to pay attention to what Psychologist Ken Munyua says,

“In many cases, parents who try to hold their children back probably never had time with them due to different circumstances. It could be the children were always in boarding schools or the parents were busy with academic or professional pursuits. When the child is finally done with school, the parents are looking for that last chance to spend time with them and compensate for lost years. Unfortunately, at this point, it’s already too late.”

Times have also changed and nowadays, parents don’t have many children. “In the past, families had many children and by the time the last born moved out, the first born had probably sired grandchildren. These grandchildren would then fill the gap left by those moving out gradually. But now, most people have one or two children, so they are also likely to hold on to them for longer,” says Munyua, adding that often, when parents hold on to their children, they are meeting their own emotional needs and not those of the children. In the end, Munyua cautions, these children end up starting life very late. They might have to play catch up with their peers, in various aspects. Take the time to enjoy your parenting journey now, so that when it is time to let go, you do so whole-heartedly. And don’t assume that your children will have the same struggles you did. Avoid projecting your fears on them.

Besides, letting a child go does not mean you are losing them. It’s an opportunity for them to start from zero like everybody else. And this is good because learning to sacrifice a few comforts leads to growth in the end. But when you create a comfort zone for your child, they develop what Munyua calls retrogression, meaning they go back to their childish habits and thinking, instead of maturing.

Supporting independent children

“When people go to school, they are supposed to graduate eventually. Similarly, children are bound to venture out on their own at one point and parents need to allow this natural process to take place. That means giving them room to explore and be independent. Over-calling and visiting them all the time does not help. Let them live their life. If they are building a family, give them space.”

Once they are out there, there are many ways to support them without overstepping. The best support should be mental, while financial help should be limited. Let them know you are there for them if things don’t work out but do not allow them to be too comfortable, by assuming that failure is an option since they can always go back home or ask for financial help.

Children also need to work on establishing boundaries with their parents once they become independent. “You have to learn to say no and mean it when dealing with requests that stretch your boundaries. It is only then; your parents will understand things have changed. You have to be adamant in creating boundaries as a child because some parents have a way of getting their way all the time.”

Conclusively, Munyua says, there is a silver lining to an empty nest that parents should look forward to. There are fewer people to feed, more time with your partner and less bills. “It’s an opportunity to take vacations, sign up for a course, explore new hobbies together or write a book. There is a Palestinian saying that life begins at 90.”

Instead of focusing on the past or trying to get your grandchildren to live with you in the hope that your children will give you more attention, establish a new life for yourself. Munyua closes the conservation with the good old’ African proverb, “a good dancer knows when it’s time to leave the stage”.