This is the first in a series of posts that will further discuss the Five Things You Need To Do Before You Child Flies The Coop, outlined in the post Practical Matters. I admit, I am already struggling a little with my own advice, as my son Rob is getting ready to leave for his sophomore year. I am trying my hardest not to count down the time until the big departure. 28 more days, 27 more days. Three hours here with him, two hours there. I got my nose out of joint the other night when he forgot to text me he wasn’t going to be home for dinner.
The first THING on the list was was LETTING GO. When things go fairly well, and we have shepherded our children through their bad break-ups, countless practices, and successful march to a high school diploma, then the reward is a big good-bye, either to a job, or the military, or to college, or somewhere. If there is not change, if that eighteen year-old does not feel ready to at least make some move away from their parents, and parents away from their children, then something has gone awry. Finances may of course be an issue or perhaps, a religious stance. But parents recognizing the emerging adulthood of their adult child?
Pretty vital to the health of the relationship.
There are many aspects to “letting go”, however. If you have issues with being over-controlling or over-protective, letting go could be a bear for you. If you have lived through your child in some way, because your own life was not happy. this could be tough. If you have babied your kids or not taught them how to be responsible for themselves, “letting go” might actually scare you to death.
Many parents are not aware that they are over-protective, or controlling or living through their child. The child may not even be aware of it.
In some families, the “letting go” process is no problem at all because from the get go, the family belief or dynamic has been one of pushing independence. If I want to get fancy and go all psychological on you, there’s a family systems theory by Dr.W.Robert Beavers that talks about centrifugal and centripetal families. The centrifugal ones are the ones where the energy of the family is moving outward and the centripetal ones where the energy is moving inward. In the first, you might hear things like, “You’re on your own soon as you get grown!” (You have to imagine that with an Arkansas twang).
The strengths in a centrifugal family can be independence; the weaknesses can be lack of intimacy, maybe ending with kids having behavior problems and conduct disorders.
Families in the second, where the belief is in dependence on the family, those are the families where you hear things like, “You can only trust blood”. Strengths of those families; loyalty, affection; problems can be with anxiety and depression.
Then there are the families between those two extremes that are the healthiest. The Duck Dynasty family intrigues me right now – they have characteristics of both. Now that’s an interesting bunch.
So it looks like we have narrowed it down. Letting go would only be a problem for half of families that Beavers would designate as more “centripetal” families. So how in the heck is that supposed to help you? It just means that in those families, the FAMILY has been central. There is nothing necessarily wrong with that. But a realization of the need for the individual to flourish is what is missing at times!
Let’s say I am working with a Mom whose daughter is away at college her first semester and who is telling me about how much she misses her. She talks to her daughter two or three times a day and texts her frequently. She also says her daughter is having trouble making friends. I try to help her see that if she doesn’t get out of the way and allow her daughter to reach out to others for a relationship, her daughter will not be likely to make friends with others.
She is part of the problem. Her daughter needs to be lonely a little, scared a little, reach out and grow.
A parent has to deal with not being needed as much. Like that first time your child pulled away from you and said, “No, Mommy, I can do it by myself”. Whether he was riding his bike, or she was combing her hair, or tying her shoes. You will be needed in a different way and that might make you feel insecure at first.
But you will always be Mom or Dad.
Not looking back is the essence of letting go. I love the saying, “When you’ve got one foot in the past and the other in the future, you’re pissin’ on today“. Basically, if you are wishing the past was still happening and worried or anxious about what is upcoming, today has no chance of being happy or full of life. Just not going to do that with my son.
Not this last now… twenty-four days.
Please send on to those in your acquaintance who might be sending their children off and cutting loose themselves! Or at least trying!