Why Leaving the Nest Is Harder the Second Time Around

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Brynna Bantley, 27, was working as a personal chef in San Diego, but had to return home to Atlanta in July after she couldn’t find consistent work because of pandemic shutdowns. Ms. Bantley said she’s been putting off her eventual move out of the house, in part to save money, but also because she’s anxious about leaving home. She worries about being able to support herself without her parents’ help and her ability to find steady freelance work in the hospitality industry. In college, she said, she felt she had “a purpose.” “Now if I move out, I don’t know if I’ll have as much of a directive,” she said. “You don’t know exactly what you’re going to do. It’s a little bit daunting.”

Erica Sandoval, a licensed clinical social worker and president of the New York City Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers, said young adults have always faced challenges when leaving home, but the pandemic has added an additional wrinkle of uncertainty to what their lives will look like going forward. “There are a lot of different emotions due to the fact that you’re really not sure what it’s going to be like,” said Ms. Sandoval. “The world is not the same.”

Having a plan can relieve anxiety. She advises young adults to start with a financial plan that takes into account how much you have saved in the bank, how much money you’ll be earning after leaving home and which bills you’ll be responsible for paying on your own. Set short-term and long-term career goals, and have a Plan B in case you need to adjust during uncertain times. Make a plan for health emergencies, too. “Who is the person who should be called, and how do you plan on checking with each other?” she said.


Young adults leaving family support systems behind should be proactive about setting up a support squad in their new city, particularly if they are struggling with mental health. The support team should include any friends, family and a therapist in the area. A pet can also be a great comfort, said Ms. Sandoval.

Try to build new relationships to add to the support squad, said Danielle Burks, a licensed clinical professional counselor specializing in teens and young adults based in Chicago. Ms. Burks suggests chatting with neighbors, looking for community events and heading to the local bookstore to meet new people. Apps like Bumble BFF and Meetup can help foster new relationships.

“Moving to a new place during this time, it can feel scary and lonely,” she said. “Maintaining current relationships, leaning in on those relationships is important.”

Julie Lythcott-Haims, a former dean of freshmen at Stanford University and author of the book, “Your Turn: How to Be an Adult,” said an easy way for young adults to create a routine in their new home is to think about three categories: bodies, bills and belongings. Schedule time in the mornings for self-care activities like exercise (bodies) and make room for household chores (bills and belongings) in the evenings. She also recommends the YouTube account “Dad, how do I?” which offers videos with tips on how to take care of many of these adult responsibilities, from changing a toilet seat to mowing the lawn.

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