How to Let Go and Let Your Child Grow Up
Letting Go of Parental Attachment is Easier Said Than Done
Letting Your Child Grow Up
As children prepare to advance in school or enter college for the first time, parents are confronted with the reality of the child growing up. The parent is suddenly faced with letting go of a parental attachment held from birth.
This notion of "letting go" can create levels of anxiety most parents could not have prepared for, with an intensity they did not expect. Many report experiencing feelings of grieving a loss.
It is much easier said than done when the time comes to break the parent-child connection which begins the establishment of a child's autonomy and independence.
Whether it's the end of breastfeeding, the first day of kindergarten, going away to college, or walking the bride down the aisle to give her away, it can be a most difficult tug-of-war for a parent.
Fear of Letting My Child Grow Up
What is your greatest fear of letting go of your child?
Children Need to Grow Up and Venture Out on Their Own
Letting Go in Stages of Your Child's Development
These events in your child's development mark the times when you let go and allow your child to take another step toward becoming a free-standing human being.
The teenage years are probably the most difficult, as you have less and less control over your child's developing autonomy and need to make his own decisions.
Your child begins in earnest to move away from his dependency on you. The poem below, "For My Child," speaks to this struggle and the reconciliation as seen from the parent's point of view.
"For My Child"
I make my plans for you from birth
Carefully carving out your worth
So wrapped up in who you'll be
I neglect your individuality
I want to protect you all your life
Keep you safe from danger and strife
Temptation and pressure attack you all day
How as a parent can I keep it away?
I pray that you'll receive God's grace
And when you need to, slow your pace
Will my guidance be enough?
To guard and keep you from all that stuff?
My goal in life is to see you succeed
What's the best way to plant that seed?
I'll give you the room to make a mistake
I'll trust you with each step you take
I'll tell you "I LOVE YOU" when you make a mess
I'll tell you "NO" when I want to say, "YES."
I'll give you the space to set your tone
Adjust my expectations as you create your own.
[JLE 2006 Poetry Verse Form: Heroic Couplet]
Overparenting: Recognizing Your Dependency Needs
Becoming aware of what's behind your need to parent your child indefinitely is a good place to begin your letting go process. Sorting out those mixed feelings preventing you from letting go is the first step toward understanding and conquering one of the most painful parts of parenting. It requires looking within.
The emotional struggle could be due to your own dependency needs supplied to you by your child. In my work with parents, some have spoken about the strength of the "love bond" between parent and child. This love bond supplies the parent's need for love, affection, and companionship.
They admit how this bond affects their ability to separate from the child, causing emotional conflicts and disruptions in their personal and professional lives. Examples of these disruptions experienced by parents include:
- Delays in using a sitter to care for the child
- A frequent need to "reconnect" or check on the child's welfare at daycare or college
- Being unable to socialize or vacation for long or extended periods of time
- Relationship conflicts stemming from decreased intimacy and quality time between parents
- Delayed weaning of child from your bed to his own bed
- Conflicts about obligations to career choices/commitments to shift work, especially where basic childcare or breastfeeding is interrrupted
Defining Parental Attachment
Letting Go Creates Guilt and Internal Conflict for Parents
The conflicts and disruptions noted above are experienced by many parents, especially mothers. In these instances, primarily occurring during the child's early development, feelings of guilt, conflicts between loyalties, and the internal struggles to make sacrifices can overwhelm a parent.
The truth is, for a parent, there is no other love that compares to the love a mother or father has for a child and the responsibility that comes with caring for and protecting that child.
Thus, a parent is operating out of pure love, reciprocated by the child, which creates the intense, unexpected love bond that is hard to break.
It's no wonder parents have a tough time letting go and allowing the child to become independent. No event is more significant for a parent to experience that emotional flood of protective love than when a teenager enters college.
The increased reports in the media of violence in public school classrooms, on college campuses, and in places of recreation add to the gut-wrenching fears parents have when faced with having to let go of their children.
Parents Talk About Letting Go of College Bound Children
Tips to Help You Let Go of Your Child
There is no exact way to tackle and move through stages of your child's development. Every child requires different parenting as every parent will do his best based on knowledge, experiences, and available parenting tools.
The following are basic tips to assist parents as they move through the difficult transition of letting go, when that time comes. Starting early will help create a good foundation upon which you can build successes at each critical stage of your child's development.
- Set boundaries for yourself; practice giving your child space to grow
- Give your child a chance to master tasks alone and learn from mistakes
- Trust that the values you've instilled will inform their decisions
- Acknowledge that you've done your best as a parent and that the hands-on phase of parenting does come to an end
- Treat the letting go process as a transitional loss and grieve accordingly; see a family therapist if necessary
- As your child matures, rebuild a new relationship that is less about dependency and more about mutual respect, admiration, and a celebration of a budding, capable young adult
Children Learn to Discover the World on Their Own
Questions & Answers
How do I help my mom let go of me? She struggled with my leaving in the past when I left for college but now I’m 30 and live in the same city as she does and will be moving soon. She is upset, fearful and hurtful in her words because of her fear.
My child will be four in August. I have never let her stay the night with anyone or let them babysit her. She’s only rode in the car with me. How do I let go a little?
Try letting someone keep her for 1/2 hour during a weekend when you have access to her incase you get anxious and need to get her earlier. Gradually increase the time by 5 minute increments. This will help you take small steps toward letting go and still have control over picking her up when you need to.
© 2013 Janis Leslie Evans