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When your child leaves home


When your child leaves home

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Inspire is delighted to have teamed up with Expat Life magazine to bring you more great content to do with Thailand

Every year, thousands of expatriate parents “launch” their child off to university and like most moms I didn’t think much about it, until it happened to me.

Watching my daughter fighting back the tears from the car park outside her university halls, the memories flooded back of her first day at kindergarten. Where had the time gone? The tears streamed down my face as I glanced over to my
mother who was also crying, whilst the muffled noises from the back of the car informed me that my mother in law had also succumbed. Shocked I glanced from one to the other “I don’t know why you’re crying” I said angrily. “It’s me that’s going to be thousands of miles away”.

The weeks that followed were a whirlwind of emotions; sadness at her empty space at mealtimes, happiness at her first friendship, anxiety over her first night out and constant frustration at our poor internet connection. Her ups and downs were my ups and downs, which together with the midnight phone calls and the growing voice in my head that kept shouting “what do I do now”, left me physically and mentally exhausted. Why did no-one tell me it would be like this?

Whilst domestic research often portrays the “launch” of a child to university as a positive transition for parents, there is virtually no research on the experiences of expatriate families and the specific challenges that arise when your child is thousands of miles away. Fast forward three years and the completion of my Masters in Psychology dissertation research. This is what I discovered about the experiences of a group of expatriate mothers living in Thailand:

Before you “launch” your child to university mothering is all about “caring for” them. You cook their meals, wash their clothes and check their homework but once they leave that role transitions to “caring about” your child. Your role
becomes that of supporting your child; listening, guiding and advising when necessary (even if they choose to ignore it). The transition experience is unique to you and can influence your feelings in unexpected ways. Photos, songs, empty spaces and family shared activities can initiate strong emotional reactions, which may begin well before your child leaves and continue (hopefully with less frequency and intensity), for up to two years afterwards.

The most common emotional response you may experience is sadness and loss followed by feelings of isolation. Mothers who are not working, may find the transition to a supporting role more difficult because of the lack of alternative roles (eg. work) to take the place of mothering. How fathers respond to their child leaving home has not been researched, but evidence suggests that your partner may find it difficult to cope if they see you struggling. Fathers who are older and have a close relationship with their child are particularly vulnerable during this transition.


Source: Expat Life Thailand

Inspire is delighted to have teamed up with Expat Life magazine to bring you more great content to do with Thailand

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