Letting adult children go

Letting children go is a massive positive life change

When it comes to massive life changes, there is perhaps only a few more significant changes to your life than letting children go. Unlike the other big ones, like childbirth, marriage and retirement, you don’t really notice this life change it happens all of a sudden and comes with the realization that your child is it’s own independent person. It’s great news, you may have spent the last n years cherishing, loving, caring and bringing up that person and come to accept it as part of yourself, but at this stage, it wants to part ways with you and explore and experience the world independently. It is great news because now you can concentrate on the things you loved before. It is a positive life change, a world of opportunity. Not only will you have more free time but also don’t forget the opportunity of seeing your children as adults.

When to let go

When to let to is a difficult question and the wrong approach would be to ask “when am I ready to let go”, the question should instead be “when is the child ready to be let out”. A part of parenting is preparing the juniors for the dangers of life, the pleasures of life and to give an overall perspective on life out there. The life out there is different for a every person. So when is the child ready to be let out? That again partly depends on you, for some the letting go process will be swift, for others slow, for some difficult for others easy. But it is best to approach the question by asking, what else could you teach or show that will be useful in life, to an extent where the child will not be able to learn it by oneself. When to let to as a question shouldn’t really arise in most situations and relationships as the child seeks independence regardless of your plans. Sometimes though you need to push away so that the child is able to live independently and become a fuller, more complete person by doing so. It is not easy for some, but necessary, it is a part of parenting to complete this stage of separation. Today there is a paradox, though where children grow up quickly but mature slowly. Prepare them and then let them go.

Meddling and mentoring

Parenting as an approach to children is fine until they become adults. After that your children, regardless of the way you see them are more of adults, besides as the members of the new generation they are likely to be well adapted to the new age. Technology, traveling and things that you find new for them are already old. Parenting is great as a guiding tour but it tends to interfere with adult children, in fact most problems during the early letting go years arise from a child’s disagreement of your parenting, over controlling behavior. Meddling with their lives afterwards may have a counter productive and a separating effect, so ask yourself is there really a need of teaching someone how to swim with breaststroke when they can already swim with butterfly. Instead there are other ways of being involved with the adult children, collaborating with them towards their goals. Not commanding, but rather listening. Being engaged with them and not in a possessive kind of way, not micro-managing their life but instead providing counsel, ideas, networks, experience and sharing strategies, like a good mentor would. Consider the old saying

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”

It is as relevant with your children as with anyone else.

Skills and staying close

One thing that you have more of is experience, well, in most cases anyway. Experience in itself is useless to the child unless, firstly the child is interested and secondly, if you are able to convey your skills and experience in an interesting kind of way. Many parents forget that their children have already experienced a lot as members of a newer generation and quite likely they are very able to use some skills themselves, skills that you are yet to grasp. Often those children and parents drift apart that do not share the same interests and therefore are unable to spend as much time together, because simply there isn’t much you can do together. Consider exchanging skills. A good starting point would be knowing what your and your child are good at. Parents tend to be good at cooking and doing things with their hands, not to mention other unsavory tasks like dealing with bills and taxes. The younger generation are generally quite good at technology, video games and things of this kind. Many parents blank at the prospect of sharing a video game together, or enjoying something alien to them. Don’t be. Frankly you are quite likely to enjoy playing a video game as the child and not just for the company.

Communication and command

Like the point above is about sharing skills, this point is about sharing knowledge. So many parents don’t know what their children enjoy or even show signs of wishing to find out. Often it is far more convenient to assume rather than ask. There is some kind of a communication barrier. Consider that you are not giving lessons on sex education, but rather – asking what your children feel good with and in what direction they are developing. If they don’t have an interest, suggest one, but don’t push. Often parents mistake their interest with bothering, suggesting too many things, constantly giving advice and not showing a remote sign of listening. Constant torrent of advice is counter productive, say things too many times and they lose their value, like advertising and soap operas. Instead aim to direct your communication in a quality rather than quantity kind of way and make sure that it isn’t one way traffic. If it is just one way communication, then it is a divisive factor in parent-adult child relationship.

Fear and challenges

Fear is of course very natural when it comes to caring about loved ones. However, as everything it should be limited and not overbearing. When a child is young it needs guidance and protection, as the child gets older it requires mentoring and independence. It is important to consider how much the fear for the offspring damages them or hinders them. Western world is relatively safe and parents pay too much attention to the media that portrays reality as a world that is full of dangers. Well, it really isn’t. With a bit of common sense a your offspring will be well prepared for the most that life throws at him or her. If not, it would be character building for them to handle the arising issues independently, and if they don’t succeed then it’s a valuable lesson. Your job is to provide them with tools and methods of assessing dangers and to provide with a sense of confidence when faced with challenges.

Leadership or partnership

So whilst a child is growing up it is better to lead the child with “considering all that is known we can make an informed decision based on a sound reasoning process” rather than “this is what we do”.
There is no guarantee that a child or young adult will follow, some may even do the opposite if they are pushed as a way of proving to themselves their independence. Now, you’re the wiser (hopefully) of the two, so anticipate such eventuality and respond accordingly. Best relationships between parent and child are based on partnerships rather than leaderships. The chain of command or hierarchy of control in family are often damaging to relationships within family. After all those who seek independence are more attracted to those who offer them friendship and partnership rather than those who seek to command and control them.

Motivation or cultivation

Everyone could be proud of their offspring once in a while, or every time, or occasionally and it is no surprise that parents press their children to do things. Sponsoring an expensive good education or teaching the child to play piano, one in many ways seeks a return on investment, or rather the fruit of one’s effort. There is no guarantee that the offspring will be able to provide such results or to ripen in the required time. So when it comes to motivation vs. cultivation there is no definite answer. Everyone is different and whilst you may think that your child would be better off following your steps as an investment banker, perhaps the child is more convinced that the artistic life and career with little financial reward is more feasible. Likewise if you are a pastor and you see your child taking interest in science and technology, being a their own person is it really that bad that they go a different way than you. So the key questions are often ignored in favor of presumption. Talk to them and ask what makes them happy. People love different things and it is a blessing if they love things other than you, perhaps you could share the passion together. Ways to happiness are numerous. Accept that. Offer guidance and experience. Perhaps you’ve made a lot of mistakes yourself and your offspring will repeat them or perhaps you will find yourself impressed by their wisdom and the ability to point out your own mistakes. The key is allowing freedom.