Parents go through many transitions along with their kids, from the first day of preschool to college graduation and beyond. Very often, each new stage is just as hard on parents as it is on kids – and often it’s even tougher.
Many people’s sense of identity and self-worth comes from their roles as parents. This can make it especially hard to let go and give kids the independence they need to turn into full-functioning adults.
One study found when parents hover, kids can be more vulnerable, anxious and close-minded than kids who are given more freedom and responsibility. Other research shows that kids with overly involved parents may be less engaged in the classroom and have lower self-esteem. They are also more likely to get involved in high-risk behaviors, such as binge drinking.
So how do you learn to let go as your kids grow up? Here are a few tips that can help:
- Let kids do things on their own. Whether it’s finishing their science project or tying their shoes, your children will benefit from doing things without your help. Even though you think their project may look better with your expert touches, they’ll learn more by figuring things out themselves.
- Ask the right questions. Letting go means that you don’t bombard with your kids with questions whenever they walk in the door. Sure, you still want to know what’s going on in their lives, but keep questions to a minimum and make them count. Open-ended questions help keep the conversation going.
- Teach them what they need to know. From managing money to knowing how to drive on the highway, there are some things kids just need to be taught. Teach them the basics and then be their advisor, not their manager. They’ll learn valuable life skills and you’ll gain confidence in knowing they’ll be prepared to one day strike out on their own.
- Loosen the reins gradually. Kids crave responsibility so start out when they’re young by letting them make decisions about things that are important to them but aren’t a life-or-death situation. Then gradually give your children more independence over time.
- Know when to back away. Kids are more likely to let you in on what they’re thinking and feeling when you back down. Don’t force yourself on them. You may be surprised by a spontaneous hug or some insight into what’s on their mind, even when you didn’t ask for it.
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