Leaving Home


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The Journey From Birth To Emerging Adulthood
By John Breeding

ISBN: 978-1-84991-926-5
Published: 2013
Pages: 186
Key Themes: Mental Health, Psychology


Leaving home and successfully establishing a self-determined life is the great challenge of young adulthood, and many have a very hard time with the task. Metaphorically, young people leave home over and again throughout their development; these early leavings may be seen as preparation and practice toward an autonomous, self-reliant life. This book explores the process of leaving home at each level of development from birth to emerging adulthood, providing theory and experience relevant to each stage for young people and their families. The author has three emerging adult children of his own, and his desire is that this book will be a positive force towards optimizing success for young people in leaving home and going forward in a good way, and for parents and other older adults in letting go.

About the Author

John Breeding, Ph.D., is a counseling psychologist, professor, writer, speaker and activist in Austin, Texas. John works with a wide range of people in various venues ranging from office and telephone counseling and consultation to workshops and public speaking. A significant part of his work is to assist adults in becoming more effective in their work with young people, offering non-drug alternatives to helping young people who are having a hard time. He works hard to challenge the ever-increasing role of biological psychiatry, especially psychiatric drugs, in the schools and in society at large. Dr. Breeding is also active on other challenges of psychiatric oppression, including electroshock (see and psychiatric coercion. His website,, is a great resource on parenting, psychology and psychiatry.

Dr. Breeding is the author of four other books: The Wildest Colts Make the Best Horses, The Necessity of Madness and Unproductivity: Psychiatric Oppression or Human Transformation, True Nature and Great Misunderstandings, and Eyes Wide Open. John is also exceedingly proud of his own three young adults—Eric, Vanessa, and Gardiner. His experience learning from these three awesome individuals and letting them go, along with countless other young people, has been the inspiration for Leaving Home: The Journey From Birth To Emerging Adulthood.

Book Extract


I have been teaching a class about human development at Austin Community College [ACC], and over the years have found myself emphasizing the theme of leaving home as a recurring experience in the course of one’s life. I tell my students that this one theme is a worthy template for consideration of the great, ongoing challenges of becoming a loving and powerful individual through the stages of our lives. With this book, I want to share some thoughts on this vital dynamic.

I was born in the summer of 1952. In the last several years, I have been in the throes of one of the most difficult and challenging parenting experiences—and there are many—in my 25 years of being a father. My two biological children are now young adults and are leaving home in a big way. Eric, turned 25 at the end of this summer of 2011, has been living in New York City for two years, and just graduated with distinction, with a Masters of Fine Arts from the Pratt Institute of Art. He is a talented artist and photographer1. He just started working as an art handler at one of the big auction houses in New York City, where he is determined to stay as he loves it there.

Vanessa turned 21 at the end of this summer, and has just finished her junior year at Pomona College in southern California. She is majoring in gender studies and learning languages because she wants to communicate with people around the world. She spent the fall of 2010 in Jordan learning Arabic2.

My step-son Gardiner just graduated from high school where he was student body president and starred in the senior play. This fall, he went off to Hampshire College in western Massachusetts intending to continue his creative writing and to study psychology. Note that all three of these emerging adults are living far afield from Austin, Texas.

Letting go of my children has been hard. This is one of those situations where success, while a great blessing, also brings sadness – at least for this old dad. They are succeeding in the great challenge of coming of age, in our very trying times. I am proud of them, and I miss them. My experience moves me to want to share with you my ruminations on this process of leaving home and letting go.

Those of us who are parents often commiserate about our children’s difficulties with transitions. If we are honest and self-reflecting, we may know where it is hard for us, even as “mature adults,” to deal with certain transitions. My children will happily tell you about how weird their father gets in certain situations—planes, trains and subways, for instance. One of my favorite definitions of relationship is “a ceaseless process of joining and separating.” We are always in flux, coming, going, joining, separating, arriving, leaving and letting go—or not!

A third catalyst for this writing comes from Shelley Howard, a young adult student in my spring 2011 Human Development class at ACC. Shelley wrote a brilliant paper for the class on the subject of emerging adulthood, the stage of life she shares with my children. It is as if her paper were written especially for me, sharing valuable insights and experiences on what it means to be a young adult making her way in the wider world. I learned so much from Shelley, and I am happy that she agreed to contribute the chapter on emerging adulthood. That she also happens to be my son’s friend is an added joy for me.

Although this book’s emphasis is on the young adult’s experience of leaving home, and the parents’ experience of letting go, it should also be noted that “leaving home” occurs again and again, literally and metaphorically, throughout life, in the course of a day, a week or a month. Part I is called “The First Leavings,” and considers prenatal experiences around birth and infancy, as well as toddlerhood, with its concomitant bonding and attachment. This time is powerfully formative as huge changes and transitions occur. I follow this section with Part II, which offers ideas on parenting children in ways most likely to promote success in declaring independence both then and later in life. Then, with Part III, I will explore the first experiences of actually leaving the house for day care and school. I will also begin to explore the leading edge of emerging adulthood, that “in-between” time we call adolescence. Part IV addresses the truth that life is full of risk, and that leaving home is “Risky Business.” The book culminates with direct explorations of Emerging Adulthood in Part V. I hope it is of value to you.


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