My only child, my daughter, turns 18 in a few days. I remember at a JWRP conference session you advised as to different roles parents should assume based on your child’s age. In the fall, she will go away to an out of state college. I have had difficulty letting go, but I’m trying to use this last year of high school as an opportunity for her to become as self-sufficient as possible. It’s been a challenge, but I’m learning to let her make her own decisions and live with the consequences. Do you have any advice for a mom who has difficulty letting go? I still have a way to go. Thanks.
You are in the ‘almost empty nest’ year; a time when we think we have our ‘last chance’ to impart our wisdom to our children! We feel like shaky bonds must be strengthened, and overly intense bonds loosened. We worry that the last year will not be sufficient and we worry that every argument and debate may be the ‘final taste in their mouths.’ But in reality, by the time our children are ready to go away from home, they are already pretty clear about our values and priorities. They know exactly what your hopes and dreams for them are because they see and hear everything and internalize both the direct and passive messages we send.
My message to you is that your role as a parent is FAR from over! It has been my experience that it is rarely the thing we worry about that comes to greet us, so fretting now does not prepare us for what we may need to face. We are now are in the consulting stage of life where we speak and offer opinions when asked and, instead, provide the safe place of unconditional love and trust that helps keep people grounded and secure. We only have ‘delusions’ of control at this point. Using money or guilt will not succeed in controlling your kid’s choices in any way. Often that pushes them further from us as they need to separate as much as we need them stay near.
Here are my top suggestions for maximizing the months ahead to teach your kids what matters most:
- Learn something new! Let your kids see that learning is not only related to school but that the opposite of old is not young; the opposite of old is NEW! Be enthusiastic about your pursuits of new wisdom or skills and model a lifelong love of personal growth.
- Re-build the bonds with your spouse BEFORE the kids leave! This means regular date nights together and more interest and involvements in THEIR lives. More conversation and more intimacy will yield a less gaping hole for you later. If you are not in a romantic relationship then strengthen the bonds and time you spend with your friends. Don’t be ‘that woman’ who suddenly has time when she had NONE of her friends before.
- Teach them life skills. Every young person should know how to operate a washing machine and dryer and make a decent omelet. Send them grocery shopping for you and give them more responsibility within the family; this will be a gift they will never regret despite potential grumbling
- Give them a budget NOW with funds for food and entertainment and let them practice managing them. So many kids have no idea how to manage money and are up for a rude awakening when they are on their own
- Tell them you trust them and respect their autonomy and their ability to make decisions. Even if you are not so sure how you truly feel most young people raise themselves to the level we assume they are at. Your confidence is perhaps the greatest insurance policy of all.
- PRAY!!! Don’t ever doubt the power of prayer both for yourself and for your children! A mothers prayer is one of the most powerful weapons in the spiritual world.
May your daughter launch smoothly and may you come to value this new season of your life and maximize it!
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