Monday, August 7, 2017

Day 2851 - Family Dynamics

What happens to siblings when one leaves the nest?

I'm an only child so I have no idea what it's like to have siblings.  Which is why I always marvel at my kids and learn so much from their dynamic.

My two have grown up without their older sister in the house because she's always lived with her mum, only coming to us on weekends or school holidays.  To be honest, because she's quite a bit older, the kids can hardly remember her "living" with us on a part-time basis at all.

So essentially the model daughter has been the oldest child in the house with her younger brother  4.5 years younger.

From the day he was born the model daughter took the role of big sister very seriously.  She was actively involved in all bathing, nappy changes, bed time rituals, feeding times and play time.

She's continued to be actively involved but it now takes the form of helping with homework, attending his soccer games, driving him to school, styling his clothes and chatting with him about their favourite You Tubers.

While they obviously have the occasional conflict, for the most part they get on very well, due in large part to her patience and his respect for his older sibling.

Which is why I'm starting to worry about what will happen when she flies out of the nest in three weeks time.

Just last week we secured a room in a group house for the model daughter in Sydney. She will be living in a beach community, within a hundred metres of a major bus stop and living with lovely people in a friendly environment.

While this is all very exciting for her, what does this mean for the brother she leaves behind?

Who will he chat to the moment he wakes up each morning?

Who will stand at the bathroom mirror with him as he styles his hair?

Who will he compare notes with about the latest You Tuber escapades?

Who will keep him company, even in silence, at their end of the house?

Who will he talk to about the gossip at school?

I've recently read about the whole emptying nest thing and how it can impact on the child/children who watch their older sibling move on.

While some kids jump for joy and plot to take over their sibling's bedroom and possessions, for others it can create anxiety, withdrawal and even an entire character change.  When someone leaves the home the family dynamic changes.

Essentially he's going to become an only child and he's never had that before.  His sister has always been there.  Even when she's not there, she's never far away.

She's the girl that will go out with her friends but will always be home on time and is actively involved in family activities. She's the girl that will ditch her friends in preference for a family movie night.   She's the girl who can't wait until her brother is old enough to attend music festivals so she can take him with her.

We are about to enter uncharted waters and I'm starting to think that with only three weeks until departure D Day I should start to prepare our son for what life is going to be like.

While I've been focused on getting our girl ready for living in a group house, living without her parents and living with adult responsibilities, I haven't given any focus to preparing our boy for the emptying nest.

How do we prepare him for his big sister's departure?

Firstly I think it's important he feels part of his sister's new life.  He needs to see her new home and be able to picture where she is living.

Secondly, they need to have open and direct lines of communication.  Luckily in today's world that is possible via mobile phone, social media and face time.

Thirdly, we need to keep our daughter's bedroom just as it is to show she still lives here and is welcome home at any point.  We'll ensure regular visits both ways and continue to plan family events.

Finally, I figured that he could help me put together "care packages" for her that we can send with all the stuff she might be missing from home.  So he can see that each time we do the groceries we're still keeping her in mind and buying for her as an important member of the family.

But other than that, I'm not sure what else to do.  As I said, I don't have any siblings so I really don't know how any of this works.

So tell me, did you have a sibling move out of home when you were young?

Perhaps you've got older kids and you've been through this emptying nest stuff yourself?

Any tips on how to make this transition smoother for the child who is left at home? 


  1. I think about this (and have written about this before) - I worry for my youngest who will go from being a third to an only child, which I think is much harder than being an actual only child. However, the whole world manages it, so it must be ok. We've had a few nights when 2 have been away and we're left with one and the house seems so empty and quiet. I have no advice but I do feel for you...

  2. I don't really remember feeling a change when my older sibling moved out. (Not just moved out, but moved interstate, too, in pre-facebook/mobile phone era. It was just what happened...)

  3. Best of luck with the first bird flying the nest! When my older brother got married and moved out the house was a strange place to be for a few weeks. It was so quiet, not that he was noticeably loud or anything but there was definitely a presence missing. And a bit of a power struggle between the rest of us left behind.

  4. It's an interesting one. I'm the eldest of 4 & left when I was 20 to move to Canberra. I have no idea at all how that impacted the others. I think if I were to ask them, the next one down would say she had no one to take the blame for what she used to do, no 3 would say she didn't notice - she was too busy having fun, & my brother was just 13 & didn't really notice either.

  5. I loved it when my sister left home, the comparing me to her stopped and I could just be me without the hassles. When we had a homestay student come and stay with us from Germany for 12 months it was his older sister that did not cope. She missed him terribly and could not accept that he was fine without her around all the time. With so many easy ways for them to keep in contact, I'm sure they will work this out together. Being their to chat with your son more as he adjusts to this new normal.

  6. I'm an only child like you and my son is an only child too. So I don't have a clue about any of this, haha!

    Di from Max The Unicorn

  7. Our daughter thought it was great when her brother moved out - she got the bathroom to herself and basically became an only child - no annoying big brother treating her like an annoying kid sister! It's nice that yours are close enough to miss each other - but I think they adapt better than we do.

  8. I'm not much help... my brother and I are 13 years apart, and he left home when I was around 6, so I don't really remember all that much. We still get on well today though, so that's great!! Good luck with it all, it will be a big change for the leaver and the 'left behind'. x

  9. So excited for your daughter and her big move, Leanne. I'm not much help with practical advice either. My brothers moved overseas for a bit when we were much older and it still hurt for me as an adult. We're all back in the same country now but still across the country. Thank goodness for text messages and facebook!

    SSG xxx

  10. I read this with great interest. I think that your son, as he is getting older may not 'miss his sister' as much in his teen years when the focus becomes more about friends at school. Our kids were 7.5 years apart and were close-ish in the primary school years (our son) but by the time our daughter left home aged 21 her brother was in Year 8 at HS and did not miss her at all. It will be a bigger change for you I think...have those tissues ready for sometimes the realisation of the nest being empty can impact you more. Thanks for linking up this week for #lifethisweek. Next week: Ideal Meal


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