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Leaving the nest

How to tell dad you’re ready to move out? Be honest, says our elder. Here’s how you can both prepare.

Dear EWC:

I’m not sure how to start this one… See, when my older sister moved out at 18 it was really sudden. She started staying over at a friend’s more and more, only coming home to get clothes, until eventually, she didn’t even need to do that anymore, because everything she needed and wanted she had brought to her friend’s place and just didn’t bring back. She just stopped coming home.

One day, she called up my dad and asked if he’d help her move her bedroom set into the new apartment she and her friend were getting. He never said anything to her, but it really hurt his feelings. He was real quiet after that for months. He basically raised us single-handedly and for her to just pick up and leave, without any warning was like a slap in the face to him, I think. It’s been a few years now, and he’s gotten over it for the most part, although their relationship is still a bit strained. She never calls unless she wants something, and when she does stop by to see us, it’s out of the blue, no warning or care for if we had something planned.

The thing is, I don’t want to follow in her footsteps and hurt his feelings, but I’m almost 21 and as much as I love him, I really think it’s time for me to get my own place. I just don’t know how to tell him. I tried to joke about it. I made some lame joke about living at home until I was 30 and becoming a basement hermit. His response was basically that he was OK with that and I can live at home for as long as I want. Now I really don’t know what to say. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t plan on moving out tomorrow, but I want to start looking at places. At least in the next month or two. Any advice on how to start this discussion with him without hurting his feelings? Thank you.

GrannyJ replies:

Thank you for writing to EWC. After reading your letter, I can certainly understand your dilemma. You are ready to be on your own but don’t want to hurt your dad.

In my opinion, it’s best to upfront, open, and honest with your dad. Don’t make any jokes, because you want him to realize you are serious and sincere, although I’m sure he has already thought about the inevitability of your leaving home someday, so I doubt it will be a big surprise. In addition, if you discuss your plans now, he will have time to mentally and emotionally prepare for the day when you will be gone, because you certainly don’t want to “spring” it on him at the last minute.

The hardest part is putting the idea out there. Once you broach the subject, it’s all out in the open, and your dad can start getting used to the idea. Just sit down with him one day and begin your conversation with something like “Dad, I know this will be hard for you, but I want to let you know I’m ready to look for my own place.” Let him know that you love him and appreciate everything he has done for you, but part of becoming an adult is living on your own.

Your dad is probably still carrying the pain caused by the way your sister left all those years ago, but the bigger, more painful issue for him (assuming you are the last child at home) may be having an “empty nest” and being all alone after you have left. The loneliness is hard for a lot of people, but your dad will need to learn ways to adjust, and if you stay in touch and visit periodically, that should help. When you speak to him, encourage him to express his feelings about your moving out so that you and he can talk about ways to make the adjustment easier for both of you.

I hope this helps. Please write again if you need more advice. I hope things work out for you and I wish you all the best!

Category: Family
Letter #: 458461

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