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Giving Wing, Taking Flight : Exhilaration and anxiety go hand-in-hand when offspring strike out on their own. O.C.parents and kids say the change can be a fresh start for everyone.

September 14, 1993|JULIE BAWDEN DAVIS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

In many households, the start of college this month has been the turning point. The point when, after going it together for nearly two decades, parent and child go it on their own.

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It is a point that probably both parties have spent years looking forward to and at the same time dreading. Even when the move comes at a time both agree upon--the beginning of college being a mutually acceptable timetable in many homes--a mixture of emotions, from loss to exhilaration come into play.

Less certain timetables--say, when the child feels he or she has saved enough money or the parents feel they've been giving support long enough--can be fraught with additional emotions such as frustration and anger.

Whatever the specific circumstances of the move, it is an event of importance in the lives of both parents and offspring.

"If it's been a healthy parent-child relationship, parents will feel some sadness when a child moves away because the relationship is changing from a dependent one to an independent, coequal relationship," says Tustin marriage, family and child counselor Patrick DeMarco.

When they leave the security of home and venture out to care for themselves, young people will also feel some sadness and anxiety about their move.

How well a young person makes the transition out into the world has a lot to do with the parenting that has occurred before the move, says DeMarco. "If the parents encouraged independence, yet at the same time were supportive and emotionally accessible, the young person is likely to leave confident and prepared."

When the relationship has been positive, those going and those staying behind look forward to the move.

"Parents and young people themselves become excited about the future and what he or she will become involved with, in terms of career and relationships," says DeMarco. "This change also gives parents a chance to focus on their marriage and any personal goals they may have put aside during parenting."

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Although Cheryl Olivere of Anaheim Hills dreaded the move of her youngest daughter, Holly, to Cal State Chico, she has found that things are going more smoothly than she expected.

"Over the years I put a lot of thought and energy into my children, especially my youngest daughter, who was the last to leave and the only one at home for a few years. We were very close and shared a great deal," says Olivere, the 45-year-old mother of two children and two stepchildren. "When Holly left, I expected to have a huge void in my life, but it hasn't been that way."

Olivere has found that she's enjoying the time she now has. "It's nice and peaceful in the house, and I've got a lot more time to focus on the small business I've just started with a friend."

She is also savoring the alone time she now has with her husband, Jim. This is the first time since the couple married 13 years ago that they've been alone. The marriage was a second for both and involved combining families. He had two daughters ages 11 and 16 and she had Holly, then 5, and a son, 10.

"Now it's like we're in a honeymoon phase; I actually feel younger," says Olivere. "We're really enjoying our time together. There is a difference in the house knowing that no one will be running in and out. We truly have privacy now."

Jim Olivere, 51, a furniture manufacturer, says he's been looking forward to having all the kids out of the house for some time. "This has changed our lifestyle and is really the start of a new life for us," he says. "I'm ready for the quiet and privacy, and for the kids to be off on their own lives. I think I'll enjoy all the children more now when they come to visit. Absence does make the heart grow fonder."

Since she moved out a few weeks ago and has settled in a dorm room at school, the Olivere's daughter, Holly Bakarich, 18, has been surprised at how well her mother has adjusted to her leaving. "Mom was crying a lot before I left, and I thought she'd have a harder time adjusting, but she's doing OK. I thought she'd be calling me all the time, but I call her more."

Although Bakarich says she always planned on moving away to college and her parents taught her self-sufficiency by giving her a lot of freedom and responsibility to make her own decisions, she says she was "hit hard emotionally" the first week away from home.

"I've always been independent and done things like my own grocery shopping, but it's been a little overwhelming to take care of myself," she says. "Living on my own is harder than I thought it would be, and I miss my family."

Now that she is adjusting to life away from home, though, Bakarich says she's looking forward to getting involved in school programs. She plans on getting a teaching credential in math with a minor in art and says she likes the school's art department.

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RoxAnn Johnson, 43, has mixed emotions about seeing her only son, Rick, move from their home in Orange to his new apartment in Westwood so that he can attend UCLA this fall as a finance and economics major.

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