The Aha Moment that Reinforced the Idea to Let Go
I had an aha moment last night. Not one of the ones that make you grin ear to ear, but one of those moments that take your breath away. I’m a mother, and like most mothers, I’m pretty obsessed with my children. However, I preach all the time to parents in the counseling room about the goal of parenthood is to raise independent adults. This means that each step along the way we have to loosen our grip just a bit. After having my 4 year old back from a sleepover with his grandparents, I was jokingly hugging him and said “Don’t ever leave me. I’m going to hug you forever.” He earnestly looked at me and said, “Mommy you can have me now, but not for forever.” His eyes told me he knew that there was a deeper level to what he was saying. My chest instantly felt short of breath because he was so right- aha. Every day my goal is to let him go just a bit more in hopes that he will slowly become more independent and more mature. My end goal is to let go completely- My end goal is that he will be ready to fly out of the nest when he becomes an adult. As painful as that is, it is what he needs. Here are some ways for parents to let go at different ages:
Toddler and Preschool Ages: Allow your child to have free and independent play. This is vital for their emotional development, and they need to learn how to entertain themselves. For children, play is their natural form of communication. They process the world through creative and independent play. Allow yourself to let go at times in order for your child to really learn and grow in their world through play.
Elementary Years- Forget perfection during these years! Independence during elementary does come at a cost! Some ideas to help with independence is to allow your child to pick out their own outfits. They can express their styles and feel more in control of their environment. By the end of elementary, your child should be able to independently get ready in the morning. Morning checklists that remind your child what to do, such as brush teeth, make bed, etc. can help your child manage their time and get ready without mom or dad constantly reminding them what to do next.
Middle School- Middle school years can be the most challenging and stressful times. Parents often want to solve all their children’s problems in order to protect them. The first instinct when we find out that there is a problem for our child is thinking "how do I fix this for them?" Try this instead, ask your child what is one thing you could do to make this situation better? Or who can you talk to in the school to help with this problem. This teaches your child to actively problem solve and not to merely rely on their parents to fix every situation. In counseling, one of my favorite activities is to have an adolescent come up with three different solutions for a problem.
High School- Let your child make mistakes. We want to protect our children from ever failing or making mistakes, but in actuality what we are doing is preventing them from learning how to succeed. Of course, there are non-negotiable things at this age, such as no drinking or doing drugs. However, let your child make their own friends. Set the boundaries, such as being back by curfew or staying at the house with an adult, but let your child find their own peer group. With academics, your child needs to be able to study and be motivated in school without a parent overseeing it. It is better for your child to make a mistake academically in high school than in college. This is the time for your child to find their motivation and time management skills in order to be prepared for college.
Written by Amy Rollo
Amy Rollo is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor and owner of Heights Family Counseling. Amy has been practicing for fifteen years. She has doctoral level training in the areas of child and adolescent counseling, marriage and family therapy, and adult counseling. Amy Rollo provides counseling and evaluation services in the Houston Heights and surrounding areas. Amy’s goal in counseling is to journey with her clients in order to foster positive changes and growth in their lives. Read more about Amy's counseling style by visiting www.heightsfamilycounseling.com