My daughter is going to be 18 soon and will be going to study in another country. That’s making me nervous because I don’t know if she’ll be able to look after herself. She’s a smart girl but quite naive when it comes to everyday life. Are there any tips I can give her to ensure she is able to handle tricky situations or relationships?
It’s a new chapter for both of you and believe me, it’s something many parents will be worrying about. Of course, lots of young people at this age consider themselves to be a grown-up, but moving away from the security of home can throw up new situations that they’ve never had to deal with on their own. So, I don’t think your daughter’s naivety is unusual. It’s my experience that today’s ‘late teens’ have lived a much more sheltered existence than their parents, and I think this is what creates that extra layer of anxiety.
Find comfort in the fact that you have been preparing her for this moment her whole life. That has been your parental role; to get her to a point where she is confident enough to take the first steps towards being independent. You say she is a smart girl, so I have no doubt that as parents you have worked hard to build those innate skills of common sense and good judgement that will help her to navigate the difficult times and also make the most of the good ones.
There are two things that parents can do to support their kids leaving home. The first is to think practically. Knowing how to cook basic healthy food, do their own laundry and manage budgets are essential yet simple things to impart to ensure your daughter can cope.
The second is to open up a discussion about what she thinks the potential pitfalls might be. It’s vital that she understands how to keep herself safe, how to recognise the signs that she is not coping and also the expectations you have for being in contact with her.
Beyond this all you can do is to reassure her that you will still be there to support and guide her. This won’t always be easy for you. There might be things that cause you to worry along the way, but it’s vital that you keep the lines of communication open and try to react calmly or you might risk her choosing not to confide in you.
We are lucky that modern technology allows us to stay in touch easily and this makes separation easier. However, remember to use this wisely. It’s tempting to stay in almost constant touch, but set limits for yourself and give her the space to find her feet.
It’s an exciting and challenging time for both of you, but I think if you trust in your own good parenting, make sure she understands how to cope with the practical things and maintain the safety net if things go wrong, you’ll both make this transition successful.