If Your Child Leaves Home… (10 Pieces of Wisdom around Separation!)

We lived in her womb, were attached to her breast, and dependent on her for our needs. We played with him, slept in his arms, and depended on his provision by Allah’s leave. The attachment we have to our children cannot be summed up within the scope of this article. Alas, children do grow up.

As children grow into adults, they need to make adult decisions. Such decisions require a degree of independence. They involve delicately juggling one’s own life, responsibilities, and relationships. Often the adult child needs to “launch” themselves away from the comfort of their parents’ home and out into the world to learn new skills and grow. However, this may cause a lot of anxiety for the parents.

“How dare they?” is probably a thought some parents have. In some cultures, physical separation equates to emotional separation. When a child grows up and leaves home, the parents may end up feeling abandoned or betrayed. Particularly, families who have immigrated from more traditional and conservative backgrounds to Western societies may find themselves in such a predicament. However, families in Eastern societies also deal with similar issues.

Certainly, a benevolent child has no intention of abandoning their parents. He loves and cares for them. However, the parents may not perceive it so. For them leaving the home might mean leaving them. This can end up creating severe parent-child conflict. Whereas the parent may feel abandoned or betrayed, the child feels an immense sense of confusion or guilt. For the child, juggling the role and responsibilities of an adult becomes more cumbersome. If a third person is in the picture, such as a wife, this can further strain relationships and intensify the conflict.

My advice to the parents and child in such a scenario is the following:

  1. If you are the child, move out only if you really need to. If there’s no need to move out, then there’s no need to unnecessarily upset your parents.
  2. Needless to say, if you are the child and your parents depend on you for for physically and financial support, do not move out.
  3. If you are the parent, don’t give your child a reason to move out. Sometimes children want to leave because they are tired of the unhealthy relationships under one roof.
  4. If you are the child and need to move out, try to live close to your parents. This will hopefully help them accept your move easier.
  5. If you are the parent, recognize that your child is making efforts to still stay close to you while exercising his right as an adult. He hasn’t abandoned you. He’s an adult trying to make adult decisions. He’s trying to balance different aspects of his life and relationships.
  6. If you are the child, moving out does not absolve you of any responsibility. You should still check up on your parents each day, make sure you are visiting them frequently . You will find this tough to do initially. Of course! You chose to create physical space so you must own up to the responsibility that comes with that.
  7. If you are the parent, try to give your child some space as needed. I know they are your child. But they are your ADULT child now.
  8. If you are the child looking to get married and want to live in a joint family system, make sure this is clear prior to marriage.
  9. If you are the parent, don’t go around telling people how your child abandoned you. Don’t blame your child and publicize their “disobedience” towards you. Also don’t guilt-trip them everytime they come over or try to connect with you. This may draw them further away from you.
  10. If you are the child, tolerate the negativity that your parents may show you initially for moving out. Be merciful towards them. Show empathy. Read between the lines to what they maybe actually saying when they are angry or upset at you. Underneath their anger they maybe saying, “I miss you so much. I miss not having you as near to me as before. I feel like I have lost you.” Connect with these feelings.

At the end of the day, empathy perspective – seeing the situation from the your parents or child’s perspective – goes along way. May Allah make us merciful to our parents like they were merciful to us when we were young. And May Allah make our children and families the coolness of our eyes. Ameen.

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About the author

Ismail Shaikh is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with 10 years of experience working with individuals and families with Psychosocial concerns. He is passionate about helping people care for their inner world and and their relationships better. In addition to working full-time on an Mental Health Team, he operates a private practice online at www.carekhalifah.com where he offers therapy services to the Muslim community. He is also a Legal Capacity Assessor for the Capacity Assessment Office in Ontario. He writes for various publications such as Virtual Mosque, Podium Magazine and Muslimmatters.org. He resides in Toronto with his wife and daughter. Got a question? Email him at ismail@carekhalifah.com.

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