When 16-year-old Abby Sunderland attempted to become the youngest person to sail solo around the world, there was a lot of controversy – some called it reckless and accused her parents of child abuse. Others who think childhood quests are an endangered species applauded Abby’s confidence, sailing prowess and sense of adventure.
Abby talked endlessly about her love of the sea. Who hasn’t had dreams of wanderlust? When my husband was the surgeon on a naval aircraft carrier and our children were toddlers, the three of us followed his ship along the Mediterranean for six months.
Parenting is about values. It can be a tough choice between assuring kids’ safety and encouraging their independence. If you value self-reliance and independence, perhaps you would choose the free-range option. You may decide that you can live with the worry and that the risks are manageable. There is no right answer.
As your teenagers begin to drive and enjoy their newfound freedom, letting go may be harder than you thought. Are you having trouble cutting the apron strings? If you are still trying to protect them from life’s normal ups and downs, begin to take a step back by following these practical tips:
Remember what it was like for you growing up. How did you use your strengths and resources to become more self sufficient? Put some of these good ideas to work now. Give your growing kids emotional support but let them explore and learn for themselves.
Give up old habits of micromanaging. Modern technology makes it so easy to stay connected. But you have to let go sooner or later. When you continue to get worried or upset, you’re giving your children the message that you don’t trust they can handle life on their own.
Minimize your financial assistance. Sure, you need to take care of the basic necessities, but encourage your kids to take on more personal responsibility. Beginning in high school, insist that they get a part-time job and open a bank account. Pull back as they learn new time and money management skills.
Teach your children how to problem solve. Negative feelings are sometimes difficult to face head-on, but the rewards can be more honesty and a renewed sense of trust. Help them learn to cooperate and compromise. Be flexible in resolving your family issues, as you see the situation from their perspective as well as from your own.
So many adult children have college loans to repay or can’t get a job and, according to recent statistics, more of them are moving home than leaving. You may be struggling with a kidult who is too comfortable in the nest. Or a college graduate who has boomeranged back with a diploma but no job. Try to look at the situation from your growing child’s perspective. But also think about what will motivate your adult children to move on. Isn’t your ultimate goal for them to be independent and on their own?
© Her Mentor Center, 2011
Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. is a family relationship expert with solutions if you’re coping with stress, acting out teens, aging parents, boomerang kids or difficult daughters-in-law. Log on to http://www.NourishingRelationships.blogspot.com and sign up for a free ezine,’ Stepping Stones,’ and ebook, “Courage and Lessons Learned: Reaching for Your Goals.” Visit http://www.HerMentorCenter.com for practical tips & learn about “Taking Control of Stress in a Financial Storm.”