The hardest and most important role of any parent is “letting go” when their kids grow up into young adults. In nature, we see birds teaching their young how to fly — and when they do, their young takes flight and leaves the nest for good. There is a lot of fear and apprehension in letting go because it represents a major watershed in your relationship with your children. After years of taking care of them and nurturing them in every sense of the word, they are now ready to make a mark for themselves in their world. Letting go is all about making the transition from being an authoritative parent towards a more rewarding role of being a parent-consultant. Taking on this new role will open up a whole new relationship with your adult children that can be truly amazing and wonderful for years to come. Here are what you should be letting go …
- First, let go of telling them what to do, how they should live their lives or who they should love. Recognising that it is their life to live means that you are not trying to benchmark their life with yours or some other benchmark that they do not really care about. Remember that your experiences in your life may not be relevant to them.
- Next is letting go of worrying for them and about them. From little things like “when are they coming home? – it is past midnight” to “why are they not saving enough to buy their first home?”. Making that transition allows you to sleep better at night, This only happens when you recognise that as adults, your children are responsible for making their own decisions and living by them.
- There is a fine line between giving advice because you care and giving unsolicited advise. Most parents cannot tell the difference and confuse advice with your own expectations. For example, “you should do this” may actually translate to “I expect you to do this”. Worse if you come across as a persistent nagger and that is when they stop listening. Letting go of giving unsolicited advise is a measure of successfully transitioning from authoritative parenting to consultative parenting.
- Out of an abundance of love, most parents believe that the best way to show that they love them is to try to help them — often whether they need it or not. There is a right way to help — and it all begins with the parent letting go of trying to be “overly helpful”. Your good intentions of helping may signal a lack of confidence in your adult child. A better way to help is to “problem solve” with them – listening to their problems and then offering solutions. That way, it feels that you are on their side.
- Guilt tripping never makes for a healthy relationship. A parent can make their children feel guilty about doing something or not doing something. But the same approach can also be reversed – the parents can be also made to feel guilty by their children. A common example is when parents make their children feel guilty for not visiting or spending time with them. Let go of guilt tripping – making them feel guilty will not accomplish your objective. A better approach is to give them a good reason for coming home and enjoying their visit.
The relationship between the adult children and their parents are dynamic and ever changing. Roles evolve and even reverse over time. Letting go is the first step in a long journey. By letting go, you make room for other possibilities in your relationship. And that is a good thing.