Young People Ask
Am I Ready to Leave Home?
“I sometimes feel that people are looking down on me because I’m 19 and still living at home, like I won’t be an adult until I live on my own.”—Katie. *
“I’m nearly 20, and I hate it that I have very little say about how my life is run. I’ve considered leaving home because I’m tired of my parents’ ignoring my wishes and telling me that they know better.”—Fiona.
LONG before you’re ready to leave home, you may begin to feel a desire for independence. That feeling is normal. After all, God’s original purpose was for youths to grow up and eventually leave their father and mother and establish their own family unit. (Genesis 2:23, 24; Mark 10:7, 8) But does the fact that you crave more freedom mean that it’s time to move out? Possibly. How, though, can you know when you’re truly ready to leave home? Consider three important questions you need to answer. The first is . . .
What Are My Motives?
To help you sort out your motives for wanting to move out, look at the following list. Number in order of importance the reasons why you want to leave.
․․․ Escape problems at home
․․․ Gain more freedom
․․․ Improve my status with my friends
․․․ Help out a friend who needs a roommate
․․․ Help with volunteer work in another location
․․․ Gain experience
․․․ Ease the financial burden on my parents
․․․ Other ․․․․․
The reasons listed above are not necessarily bad. However, your motive for leaving home can have a big influence on how happy you will be once you come out from under your parents’ roof. For example, if you leave just to escape problems at home or to gain more freedom, you are likely in for a shock!
Danielle, who left home for a while when she was 20, learned a lot from the experience. She says: “We all have to live with restrictions of some sort. When you’re on your own, your work schedule or lack of finances will restrict what you can do.” Carmen, who moved overseas for six months, says: “I enjoyed the experience, but I often felt that I had no free time! I had to keep up with the normal housework—cleaning the apartment, fixing things, pulling weeds, washing clothes, scrubbing floors, and so on.”
True, moving out may give you some increased freedom, and it might improve your status with your friends. But you are the one who will have to pay the bills, prepare the food, clean the house, and fill the hours when friends and family aren’t around. So don’t allow others to rush you into a hasty decision. (Proverbs 29:20) Even if you have valid reasons to leave home, you need more than good intentions. You need survival skills—which leads to the second question . . .
Am I Prepared?
Moving out on your own is like hiking in a wilderness. Would you trek into wild country without knowing how to set up a tent, light a fire, cook a meal, or read a map? Not likely! Yet, many young ones move away from home with few of the skills necessary to run a household.
Wise King Solomon said that “the shrewd one considers his steps.” (Proverbs 14:15) To help you consider whether you’re prepared to step out on your own, consider the following headings. Place a ✔ next to the skills you already have and an X next to those you need to work on.
◯ Money management “I’ve never had to make my own payment on anything,” says Serena, 19. “I’m afraid of leaving home and having to budget my money.” How can you learn to manage money?
A Bible proverb says: “A wise person will listen and take in more instruction.” (Proverbs 1:5) So why not ask your parents how much it’s likely to cost each month for one person to cover the rent or mortgage, buy food, and run a car or pay other transportation costs? Then have your parents help you learn how to budget your money and pay the bills. Why is it important to learn to live by a budget? Kevin, 20, says: “Once you get out on your own, there are a lot of surprise expenses. If you’re not careful, you can work yourself to death trying to pay off debts.”
Want a reality check? If you have a job, for a time give your parents the total amount of money it costs each month to cover your food, lodging, and other expenses. If you’re unable or unwilling to pay for your upkeep while at home, you will be poorly prepared to move out on your own.—2 Thessalonians 3:10, 12.
◯ Domestic skills Brian, 17, says that what he fears most about leaving home is having to do his own laundry. How do you know if you’re ready to care for yourself? Aron, 20, offers this suggestion: “Try living for a week as if you were on your own. Eat only food that you prepare for yourself, that you buy for yourself at the store, and that you pay for with money you have. Wear clothes that you wash and iron. Do all your own housecleaning. And try to get where you need to go by yourself, with no one picking you up or dropping you off.” Following that suggestion will do two things for you: It will (1) give you valuable skills and (2) increase your appreciation for the work your parents do.
◯ Social skills Do you get along well with your parents and siblings? If not, you might assume that life will be easier when you move in with a friend. Maybe so. But consider what Eve, 18, says: “Two of my friends moved in together. They were best friends before they shared the apartment, but they just couldn’t live with each other. One was neat, the other messy. One was spiritually-minded, the other not so much. It just didn’t work!”
Erin, 18, wants to leave home. Still, she says: “You can learn a lot about how to get along with people while living at home. You learn how to solve problems and make compromises. I’ve noticed that those who leave home to avoid disagreements with their parents learn to run away from conflicts, not to resolve them.”
◯ Personal spiritual routine Some leave home with the specific intention of escaping their parents’ religious routine. Others fully intend to maintain a good personal program of Bible study and worship but soon drift into bad habits. How can you avoid ‘shipwreck of your faith’?—1 Timothy 1:19.
Don’t just thoughtlessly adopt your parents’ religious beliefs. Jehovah God wants all of us to prove to ourselves the things we believe. (Romans 12:1, 2) So establish a good personal routine of Bible study and worship, and then stick to it. Why not write your spiritual routine on a calendar and see if you can maintain it for a month without your parents having to prod you to do so?
Finally, the third question you need to consider is . . .
Where Am I Headed?
Some who leave home are running away from problems or breaking free from parental authority. Their focus is on what they are leaving, not on where they are going. But that approach is as reasonable as trying to drive with one’s eyes fixed on the rearview mirror. When a driver is focused on what he is moving away from, he’s blind to what is ahead. The lesson? To be successful, don’t just concentrate on moving away from home—have your eyes fixed on a worthwhile goal.
Some young adults among Jehovah’s Witnesses have moved in order to preach in isolated locations within their country or even overseas. Others move to help with the construction of places of worship or to work at a branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Still others feel that they should live by themselves for a time before they get married. *
Write here a goal that you would like to achieve by moving away from home. ․․․․․
It’s possible, in some cases, to stay at home too long and not develop the maturity and skills needed for living on your own. Even so, don’t be in a rush to make a decision. Think it through. “The plans of the diligent one surely make for advantage,” states a Bible proverb, “but everyone that is hasty surely heads for want.” (Proverbs 21:5) Listen to your parents’ advice. (Proverbs 23:22) Pray about the matter. And as you make up your mind, consider the Bible principles just discussed.
The real question is not Am I ready to leave home? but Am I ready to manage my own household? If the answer to that latter question is yes, then it might be time for you to strike out on your own.
More articles from the “Young People Ask” series can be found at the Web site www.watchtower.org/ype
^ par. 3 Some names in this article have been changed.
^ par. 33 In some cultures, it is customary for a child, particularly a daughter, to live at home until married. The Bible does not offer specific counsel on this matter.
TO THINK ABOUT
● Even if your family life is difficult, how can staying at home for a time benefit you?
● While at home, what can you do that will both benefit your family and help you prepare to manage your own household?
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WHAT YOUR PEERS SAY
“When your parents give you responsibilities—the kind you would have if you were on your own—then living at home becomes a safe way to learn how to live independently later on.”
“It’s normal to want independence. But if your motive in moving out is just to get away from rules, all that shows is that you’re not really ready to move out.”
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A NOTE TO PARENTS
Serena, quoted in the accompanying article, fears leaving home. What is one reason? She says: “Even when I want to buy something with my own money, Dad won’t let me. He says that’s his job. So the idea of having to pay my own bills is scary.” Serena’s father no doubt means well, but do you think that he is helping to prepare his daughter to manage her own household?—Proverbs 31:10, 18, 27.
Are your children overprotected and thus underprepared to face living on their own? How can you know? Consider the same four skills mentioned in the article, but from a parent’s perspective.
Money management. Do your older children know how to fill out a tax return or what they need to do to comply with local tax laws? (Romans 13:7) Do they know how to use credit responsibly? (Proverbs 22:7) Can they budget their income and then live within their means? (Luke 14:28-30) Have they felt the pleasure that comes from acquiring an item that they bought with money they earned? Have they experienced the even greater pleasure that comes from giving of their time and resources to help others?—Acts 20:35.
Domestic skills. Do your daughters and sons know how to cook meals? Have you taught them how to wash and iron clothes? If they drive a car, can your children safely carry out simple maintenance, such as changing a fuse, the oil, or a flat tire?
Social skills. When your older children have disagreements, do you always act as the referee, imposing the final solution to the problem? Or have you trained your children to negotiate a peaceful solution to the problem and then report back to you?—Matthew 5:23-25.
Personal spiritual routine. Do you tell your children what they should believe, or do you persuade them? (2 Timothy 3:14, 15) Rather than always answering their religious and moral questions, are you teaching them to develop “thinking ability” and ‘train their perceptive powers to distinguish right and wrong’? (Proverbs 1:4; Hebrews 5:14) Would you want them to follow your pattern of personal Bible study, or would you want them to do something better?
Without a doubt, training your children in the above areas takes time and considerable effort. But the rewards are well worth it when the bittersweet day comes to hug them good-bye.
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Moving away from home is like hiking in the wilderness—you need to learn survival skills before you start the journey