What’s your parent-child relationship when the kids leave home?

Sep 27, 2023 | Insights

The parent-child relationship changes when the kids leave home; after two decades of nurturing, should you let go or cling to the kids?
The parent-child relationship changes when the kids leave home. In the last few weeks, I have heard different stories about how these new relationships work – and don’t work.


Rebecca, a single mum in the States, told me how horrified she was to see friends forming WhatsApp groups to discuss every aspect of their children’s new Colleges – who were the best and worst tutors, what the accommodation was like, who their children mixing with? The children, unsurprisingly, hated it. For Rebecca, this was the worst form of parenting: an inability to let go and, in the process, smothering the future development of their children.

A sounding board

Conversely, Mike and Jo, a couple in the UK whose kids left home between eight and ten years ago, told me how they are always there for their children. Mike and Jo recognise their children still need a backstop, a refuge when things go wrong, a place where they can find comfort and advice.

The big difference for Mike and Jo is that they now have no control over their kids. They can advise, even see them heading down the road to disaster, but they cannot pressure their children to change course or take a different approach. Mike and Jo described how their parent-child relationship had changed from nurturers and shields to sounding boards, a responsibility they were happy to adopt. However, it caused them some anxiety occasionally.

An exemplar

Unlike her parent friends, Rebecca is adamant that letting go of her children when they leave home is the best way forward for all of them, but unlike Mike and Jo, she feels that her children should see her as a paradigm as well as a refuge when things go wrong. Rebecca is a bit different from her friends – even a bit whacky. She is creative and believes you work for satisfaction first and money second.

Rebecca is adamant that her children know she lives life to the fullest and will not put her dreams on the shelf. She wants her children to be as proud of her as she is of them. These stories illustrate three different approaches to the changing relationships with children once they leave home. At one end of the spectrum, you can suffocate and smother. Alternatively, you can be an example to your children. Or you can be somewhere in the middle, a sounding board and a refuge when needed.

To cling or to let go?

In simple terms, you can cling, or you can let go when the kids leave home. Arguably, letting go is the ultimate form of nurturing. Both parents and children leave their comfort zone, and for parents, it is a time to grieve for a while. As so often, the words of William Blake, from his poem Eternity, show us the better parent-child relationship when the kids leave home:

He who binds to himself a joy
Does the Winged life destroy.
But he who kisses the joy as it flies
Lives in Eternity’s sunrise.

My name is Jeremy Deedes. I work with seasoned independent consultants to make sense of their finances and develop a better relationship with their money. This transformative approach allows my clients to achieve their personal and professional goals with confidence and clarity, paving the way for a calmer, more fulfilling path at home and work.

Discover your money maturity score by taking the Money Maturity Quiz at https://shrtm.nu/n2D. It’s free, takes only a few minutes, and you will get your score and recommendations by email immediately.

Then, use the link below to schedule a free 20-minute call with me so we can start you on the path to understanding your money and creating a new story to tell your family and friends.

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