When you have children at home with a significant age gap between them, be it traditional families or blended families, it can be hard for everyone when an older sibling leaves home, but especially the younger siblings. Usually, this is because the older kids are heading off to college or university, but it could be for any other reason. This post is focused on how to help younger siblings cope when your older teen leaves for university, but the same tips apply in any situation.
Disclaimer: This is a contributed post.
There’s no such thing as a perfect age gap between siblings, but when there is a large age gap between your children, they can be at very different stages of their lives at the same time. When your older teen leaves for university or college and a younger child or children are still at home, perhaps even still in primary school, you have two very different parenting stages on your hands. Although your older child is legally an adult, they still need your love and support. Meanwhile, you have younger children still at home who need your daily care and attention. This transition can be strange for you and your children, but there are ways to get through it.
Below are some tips on how to help younger siblings cope when your older teen leaves for university.
Spend Some Extra Time with Your Younger Ones
An older sibling leaving home can be strange for younger children. Someone who was in their life every day will now be elsewhere for most of the time, even if they return during the holidays. To make up for their sibling being gone, it can be helpful to spend a little bit more time with the children who are still at home. Some extra attention can cheer them up and allow them to talk about how they feel about their sibling not being at home anymore.
Stay in Touch…
Your children at home might be missing their older sibling, which is perfectly natural. Your older child might even be missing their younger siblings, even if they’re also enjoying their newfound freedom. Encouraging them to stay in touch during term time is nice, whether talking on the phone, video chats, or messaging each other. Your teen will also want to come home during the holidays and perhaps on weekends. Visiting them might be a fun thing to do as well, although it’s not always the most practical idea when you have other children.
Balance It Out – Help Your Older Teen Settle In
Your child might be over 18, but they still need their parents to support them. Getting started at university can be daunting, even if it’s also exciting. Helping your child settle in, from finding the right student accommodation to buying some essential supplies, makes the transition a little easier. Some teenagers might be too busy having fun to stay in touch, but others will still want to talk to you regularly. Try to make yourself available to provide support, whether financial, practical, or emotional.
…But Let Your Teen Have Their Space
Whilst it’s good to stay in touch, when your older teen leaves for university or college, your younger children might want to do it a little more often than your older child. When they enter higher education and live outside of the home for the first time, they want to find their feet as independent adults. Even if they love their siblings, they may not want to talk to them every day. So make sure your teen has their space if they want it, and encourage your younger children to get used to life without them too.
It’s strange when your child leaves home, but it could be a while before you really have an empty nest when you have other children at home. I hope these tips on how to help younger siblings cope when your older teen leaves for university or college helps with the transition at what can often be a confusing and upsetting time for those at home anyway.