Lesson 5 of 7 -  evolve a high-nurturance family

Perspective on a Child
"Leaving Home"

A major family-system change

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
member NSRC Experts Council

The Web address of this article is https://sfhelp.org/fam/leave.htm

Updated April 11, 2015

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      This is one of a series of articles on evolving and enjoying high-nurturance families (Lesson 5). The series exists because the wide range of current social problems suggests that most families don't nurture their members very well. That is one the epidemic effects of the lethal [wounds + unawareness] cycle proposed in this nonprofit, ad-free site .

       Most families with children must eventually reorganize when each child leaves home for independent living. This family-system change can range from well-planned and healthy to very stressful for everyone. This article is for people who are experiencing conflict about a child leaving home

       This article offers...

  • perspective on kids leaving home

  • a summary of common surface problems

  • two real problems; and...

  • suggestions if you have family conflict over a child leaving home.

      The article assumes you're familiar with....


      The young of all animal species eventually strike out - or are pushed out - to live on their own. Humans are unique in taking roughly 20 years to launch each child. This reflects the scope of skills and knowledge that young humans need in order to achieve stable independent living, find a mate, and start their own family.

       "Normal" home-leaving occurs when (a) a young adult has enough education, motivation, and confidence to live independently, and (b) other members expect and accept the family changes from the young person leaving. Some families do this in stages, when a young person goes away to college or joins a military or missionary service. Then they live on their own.

      A key variable is how well caregivers have balanced filling the developmental needs of each child over 20 years with filling their own needs for health and growth. Another factor is whether a child's conception was genuinely wanted by each parent. A third key variable is the degree of bonding between a child and each caregiver (none/weak > moderate > strong). and (1-way or mutual) .

Surface Problems

      Family stress rises when...

  • adults force a teen to leave home because (a) they can't tolerate the teen's troublesome behavior any more, and/or (b) they're weary of parental responsibilities;

  • a child runs away to escape intolerable stress at home;

  • fights erupt because a child feels ready to leave but someone opposes that;

  • an able young adult doesn't want to leave, and the adults accept or encourage that;

  • parents and/or adult kids remain dependent on each other despite the young person living alone; or...

  • a grown child wants to move back home - sometimes with kids of their own. 

      Every situation like these is a family-system stressor. Trying to permanently resolve them to everyone's satisfaction is unlikely because none of them are the ...

Primary Problems

      Each situation like these is evidence that the lethal [wounds + unawareness] cycle has been inherited from the parents'' ancestors. That means:

  • one or both parents has inherited psychological wounds and they don't (want to) know that or what to do about it (Lesson 1); and...

  • the parents were probably never taught how to...

    • communicate and problem-solve effectively (Lesson 2);

    • create a pro-grief home (Lesson 3);

    • create stable, mutually-satisfying relationships. (Lesson 4);

    • avoid or resolve values and loyalty conflicts and relationship triangles (Lessons 2 and 4);

    • create  a high-nurturance family (Lesson 5); or how to...

    • nurture children effectively (Lesson 6);

      Notice your thoughts and feelings. Does this proposal make sense to you? Expand your awareness, with this brief YouTube video on effective parenting:


      If your family has problems around a child leaving (or not leaving) home, parents and older kids  can...

  • shift from focusing on the immediate problem to a multi-decade attitude. Short-term solutions will be temporary at best, until you do the following:

  • learn about the [wounds + unawareness] cycle. Your descendents need you to understand it and protect them from it. Use your understanding as the reason to...

  • refine your definition of a "healthy" (functional, high-nurturance) family, and rank your family's nurturance level (low > moderate > high) using this worksheet.

  • assess each parent or caregiver and each older child for psychological wounds. If you find any, commit to helping each other reduce them over time; and...

  • raise your awareness, of what you need to know by taking these quizzes with an open mind. Then patiently study these questions and answers. Then invest time and energy taking this self-improvement course, and invite your other family adults and older kids to do the same.

  • study these examples of "digging down' to identify your primary needs. Then try digging down with your "leaving home" problem, and see what each of you really needs.

  • learn how to avoid and resolve these three universal stressors. You all probably have several or all of them.

  • study and apply these options for (a) analyzing and resolving typical relationship problems, and (b) improving your communication effectiveness. Then invite your other family adults and older kids to study and discuss these ideas, and use them to negotiate a solution to your "leaving home" problem/s.

  • Review and update your family's grieving policy as needed. A child leaving home causes significant losses that need to be grieved by adults and kids. .

    If your family adults not willing to do these steps, you're probably wounded and dominated by well-meaning false selves. That means your family will endure ongoing stress, and your descendents are at significant risk of inheriting psychological wounds and ignorance.


      Families with children inevitably face a time when each child leaves home to live independently. Functional (high-nurturance) families plan well for this change, and launch their well-prepared children with affection and minimal stress. Typically, their kids establish their own lives, and maintain healthy interactions and boundaries with their parents and other relatives.

      Dysfunctional families can suffer a variety of stresses over older kids leaving and/or returning  home. This brief Lesson-5 article offers perspective on common surface stresses, and proposes a primary problem that causes them: psychologically-wounded, unaware parents. The article closes with  practical suggestions for adults and kids conflicted over home-leaving.   

      Reflect: why did you read this - did you get what you needed? If not, what do you need? Who's answering these questions - your wise resident true Self or ''someone else''?

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