Do you remember how it felt to hold your newborn baby in your arms? He or she was so tiny, so helpless, relying on you for everything. You vowed to care for them, protect them. So it’s not really a surprise we find letting go so difficult as they get older.
How will they manage on their own, after needing us for so long? It’s our instinct to look after them and make sure everything is ok, so it’s hard to acknowledge their independence. But as a parent, the best thing you can do is make sure you’ve prepared them – and don’t hold them back because of your fears.
Take a step back
Perhaps your child wants to cycle to the local store to buy some chocolate. Or maybe take the bus and meet friends in town – alone. It’s easy to let your mind run away, imagining the things that might happen or the harm that might come to them.
I know parents who never let their kids out of their sight. One mum doesn’t even let her son and daughter play in the garden unless she’s out there with them. In fact – and this is true – when her eldest started school, she’d sit outside the gates at break and lunchtimes so she could watch him.
Letting our kids go physically is difficult, but the truth is you do them no favours by shielding them too completely. There’s nothing wrong with being scared for them – it’s natural. Make sure they’re aware of potential risks and how to handle them. But let them strike out on their own.
Respect their choices
Naturally, you’ll raise your child according to your own beliefs and ideals. This doesn’t mean they’ll grow up to walk the same path as you do.
Perhaps you have very strong religious or political leanings, and they announce one day that they have opposing views. I’ve even known families where a child supporting a rival sports team has caused arguments and rifts.
Whatever it is, it’s their choice. You don’t have to agree with it, and it’s natural to feel disappointed. But you shouldn’t judge them or tell them they’re wrong. Instead, be proud you’ve raised them with the confidence to express their own opinions. And remember – your parents probably didn’t agree with all your choices, either. They still loved you.
Stay in reserve
Even as adults, there’ll be times when your kids will need you. At some point, they’re likely to face heartbreak, tough times at work, or financial struggles.
As our children get older, our role changes. We can’t wrap them in cotton wool – physically or emotionally. We have to allow them to make decisions, good or bad, and find ways to deal with difficult situations.
That’s when they need us in reserve. Be there to offer comfort, guidance, advice, and support when asked, but don’t force it on them. And don’t take over – helping them, rather than waving a magic wand, is what’s needed.
Think of the end-game
When my son first left home, I was terrified. How would he cope without me? What if he couldn’t pay his rent or forgot his car insurance? Would he eat properly? Life is complicated. Could he manage it on his own?
Six years on, it would seem he can. In that time, he’s managed to move house twice, find a job he enjoys and is good at, and bought his dream car – all without my involvement. I’m proud – and amazed – at how he deals with adulthood.
A friend recently sent me this quote:
“To raise a child who is comfortable enough to leave you means you’ve done your job. They are not ours to keep, but to teach them to soar on their own.” (Author unknown.)
And that pretty much sums it up. Our role is to prepare our kids for life in the big, wide world. Difficult as it is, that means letting go.