I remember the day I ventured out to the shopping mall with my 3 week-old first born baby. I had him all tucked into the carriage and as I pushed the carriage through the clothing section of a store I was vigilant about keeping at least one eye on him at all times, for fear someone would snatch him away when I wasn’t looking. My fear-based protective parenting didn’t end there. I hovered and worried about his safety for years to come. I had a very hard time letting him go to spend the night over with a friend for the first time. What if he needed me in the middle of the night? What if he choked on something and no one was watching?
It wasn’t until I was in graduate school in my early childhood development class when my second child was 4 and my oldest was 7 that I realized I needed to learn to let go. I’m not talking about full fledged free-range parenting but I needed to loosen up and allow my sons age-appropriate independence so they would grow and develop on their own journeys. From there, I studied and practiced parenting methods rooted in Rudolph Dreikurs (Discipline Without Tears) and John Gottman (The Heart of Parenting) and other greats. Eventually I developed my own training workshops for parents called Parenting with Purpose and Vision and I taught from my own humble experiences coupled with all I had learned in graduate school and beyond.
Even when you have studied and practiced and know all about how important it is to let children grow up, it can still be hard for the parents.
The night after my younger son moved out of the house summer after high school graduation, I walked into his empty bedroom and the tears came. Where had my little boys gone? Now they were these men with deep voices and hairy faces.
This year I will launch my third child and watch her go off to college. My husband and I shared a tearful moment as we prepared her 18th birthday gift she will receive next week.
The fact of the matter is, children do grow up and we parents have to learn how and when to let go.
Letting go is not a one time thing. We begin the letting go process when they are infants and we lay them on the floor and allow them to explore rolling over.
Then when they begin pulling up and coasting, we encourage them to explore the experience of walking.
When they are two and discover the word “No!” we learn to allow them to express preferences with the only way they know how. We let go a little more the first time we leave them with a sitter. And more when we take them to preschool, then kindergarten, then on the bus to go to school.
As you let go, each time you want to find the place of balance with keeping safety in mind. After all, her brain is not fully developed until she is 25 years old and decision-making is a learned and practiced skill we have to model and teach our kids.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself at any stage of your child’s development to see if you are finding that balance.
- Am I or another responsible adult available in case he stumbles and needs help? Does he know how to ask for help?
- Is this activity/event one that she is developmentally ready and prepared to try on her own?
- Am I allowing him a chance to express his feelings and views or am I rushing to correct and therefore potentially shutting him down and stunting his growth?
- Is my own anxiety getting in the way of allowing my child to learn and grow? If so, do I have a professional I can talk to and some skills in place to manage my anxiety?
Being a parent comes with a lot of emotions from the time your child is born all the way through to seeing your child grow into adulthood… and beyond, I’m certain. When our own fears, anxiety, worries about our children fogs up the mirror to the point we can’t see ourselves or where we are, it can be helpful to talk with a parenting expert to get support and suggestions.
I offer such parenting support through my parenting coaching services for parents throughout the United States. If you’d like to discuss how I may help you, please let’s be in touch. Contact me HERE.