Recently, I had the privilege of conducting a workshop with a group of moms whose children just graduated from elementary school. All the moms who attended were talking about this beautiful day and how they were overcome with emotion and pride. There were celebrations with family, graduation parties with friends, lawn signs and balloons. Graduations are so monumental for parents. Parents are filled with pride witnessing their child’s accomplishments as graduations are a beautiful symbolic representation of your child growing up.
In fact, the workshop was about their tweens getting their first cell phones for graduation. How can they as parents protect & trust their child with this new found independence and access to social media?
This started to make me think about what we as parents must do to strike the emotional balance of being involved and there for our kids, while starting to allow some level of independence?
Your Child is Growing Up…Letting Go & Holding on. How do we Strike this Balance?
Your baby moves from the bassinet into a crib in his own room. Your child goes from preschool into kindergarten & has to get on a bus by themselves. Your middle schooler is starting to separate from you, preferring to be with their peers more than hanging out with you. These are all events & signs of your child growing up. As parents we are all feeling, “Where did my baby go?”, “How did this time pass so quickly”? “How independent do I allow my child to become in middle school?
At transition times, parents think about their children growing up and moving on. How do we allow our children to move into the broader world and find ways to stay connected to them?
Be Aware and Accept your Feelings – As your children grow, they need you less. Part of your job as a mom or dad is to form a strong “emotional bond” with your children, so allowing & encouraging your children to separate feels unnatural. Parents often feel heartache and emptiness about not being needed as strongly as when they were young. This path is “bittersweet”. Being aware of this struggle and your feelings will help you make choices that are the best for your children. We all have to accept the fact that our ultimate goal is to encourage our children to spread their wings and become self assured and independent members of society.
Become Educated – For parents, it’s a balancing act of what your children need to be doing in order to optimize their growth and development. Your child will move in and out of periods of “attachment” and “clinginess”, times of social growth when “peers” are everything & they need more “space” and privacy from you. So, if you know and understand that the job of school age children is to master social relationships, you will provide these opportunities as much as possible. Teens need to separate from their parents and attach to their peers in order to develop their own sense of identity and form their own values. You will try to make room for this balance with your teen.
Understanding their Unique Temperaments – Knowing & understanding & respecting your child’s temperament can help you make healthy decisions for your child. Some children are considered “slow to warm” or more “introverted’, while other children are more naturally “social” and “adventurous”. Your awareness of these traits will be helpful in terms of setting your expectations.
Clarify your Values – The issue of letting go/holding on exists in a continuum. One end of the spectrum is “over involvement” and “enmeshment”. The other end is “detachment” & maybe allowing for too much “independence”. Every family will go on their own journey towards “healthy separation”.
Cultural Influences – Some cultures admire and encourage independence while others stress closeness and interdependence. Either are healthy as long as your child is feeling confident and capable.
The Ongoing Parenting Journey – Your children will grow and move into the world and will no longer need you in the same way. They will develop more maturity and you can begin to let go of the reins. You have to begin to learn and trust their decisions & judgment.
The issue of letting go/holding on is a continuing theme that moms and dads will experience throughout their parenting journey.
Reach out and let me know how you’re navigating this within your family. Parent Coaching is a great way to assist with your awareness of boundaries & creating a “healthy” balance with your child.