Focus on the Family

When They Leave Home

by Erin Prater

What's Mary up to these days?

Excelling academically, as always. She just placed second in her school's short story contest. What about Sean?

Oh, he's having a blast on the junior varsity basketball team this year. He's hoping to make varsity next season, since it will be his last year and all. How's your girl, Jordan, doing?

Jordan's packing her bags for college. She's registered for Freshman Biology and Intro to World Religions. She's charged a credit card limit's worth of books to your Visa. She's robbed the house of all duplicate appliances and electronics – the downstairs DVD player and the kitchen's spare toaster.

You've enjoyed taking her shopping to pick out dorm-life necessities: corrugated bookshelves, a lamp, a decorative pillow to remind her of home. Sure, she's sad about leaving home, but Jordan is about to start a new chapter in her life and couldn't be more thrilled about her impending freedom.

A better question might be: How are you doing?

After all, it's a new start for you, too, and you can't help but feel like your parenting years are behind you. You wonder if you're losing your mind as your emotions vacillate from overjoyed and proud, to frustrated and dismal.

Your child is undergoing the metamorphosis better known as "leaving home." After high school, most teens move out of the house and into a new life and environment—be it an apartment on the other side of town or to a mission field on the other side of the globe. Some go to four-year colleges, others to two. Some attend a trade school, others enlist in the military. The situations may differ, but the consequences are the same: The walls are bare. The house is hauntingly quieter. You may find yourself with a few more potato chips in the bag or a few more dollars in your checking account, but for once you wish it wasn't so. Your child has found her wings and left the nest. You feel like she's up and flown the coop.

You may not have a 21-credit-hour semester scheduled, but you, too, are in for some major life lessons—in coping, parenting from afar and rediscovering your purpose in Christ. Fortunately, these are lessons you can complete successfully with a good support network and, most importantly, God. And chances are you'll find these lessons much more enduring and fulfilling than Math for Liberal Arts Majors.