God Intended Your Kids
To Have A Life
Not Be Yours
The best way to approach parenting is to begin with the end in view. What kind of people do you want you kids to be? What will the parenting process look like? And more importantly what development stages should you anticipate?
The stages are important. They represent transitions. Some of these transitions, like puberty, are naturally occurring. Kids reach puberty with or without parents. Parents can help kids understand what is happening but they can’t make puberty happen or block it.
Some transitions, however, require parental involvement. All transitions can be tricky but those superintended by parents entirely are the ones we must prepare for most.
Some Stages Depend On Parents
One stage parents must actively facilitate is the separation stage. That is the point at which children leave home and are released to live as individuals. The difficulty is, parents loathe and would prefer not to face this moment. If they had their way, they would skip this stage and carry on as usual. Not a clever way to manage a child’s life but in the moment it feels right. Sadly, this does happen.
Birds illustrate just how cold and mechanical this step appears. Once chicks have a full set of feathers they are kicked out the nest. No hugs, kisses, tears or best wishes.
And it’s a critical stage. They fly or fall. Scary stuff.
Birds do this instinctively so there’s no hesitation. Human parents, however, feel the pain. The good news is, they don’t have to kick. Kids want independence. If anything parents must hold them back till feathers are grown. There are two ways in which parents can fail: holding kids back to long or failing to prepare them well for the graduation.
But, make no mistake. Once the kids are ready, releasing them is still daunting.
How well they do will depend in part on how well you’ve done your job. We’ll talk more about the details of preparation later. For now let’s explore the “Release” stage philosophically and emotionally.
The Mental Side Of Releasing Children
This is as much mental as practical. From day one wise parents view the release date coming and intentionally prepare for it. They see it as a good thing and figure out clever ways to encourage their kids to anticipate it also.
One important thought to understanding the good side of this experience is this: your kids are not and never will be your life.
Some parents think children can be their life and even say it out loud. That kind of thinking constitutes emotional ignorance at its worst. Kids don’t want to be the life of the parent and they for sure don’t want the parent to be their life.
Every person longs for and gravitates toward independence. The only solution is to do everything you can to enable it. That approach is empowering. Preventing it is stifling.
Every person must develop a life of their own, one that enables him or her to be independent of all others: thinking, choosing and speaking for oneself. I’m not talking about isolation, seclusion, disconnection or disengagement. Just the opposite. I’m talking about living in the presence of other people as an individual, without feeling emotionally tethered or controlled.
It’s known as standing on your own feet and those that can do that are said to have a life. Every person longs for this.
Release Rules In A Nutshell
There are several rules to keep in mind about this process:
- It is their life not yours. We hold kids only for a little while and during that time must prepare them to hold their own.
- A parents job is to enable children to eventually live on their own, not control their living. Encouraging the transition between dependence and independence feels cold and harsh but everyone is better off in the long run for it.
- Never releasing children emotionally creates a tethering that is more like bondage than relationship.
- Genuine relationships involve a choice on the part of every connected person, even the child. One relationship level (parent-child) must end so the other (adult-adult) can begin. Children who never leave emotionally, long to be elsewhere.
- Parents must encourage kids to make individual choices, some of which may differ with the parent, without taking it personally.
- The only thing a parent can do is teach the principles, model the practice and allow children to live their own lives.
Parents who don’t prepare kids for this stage and don’t encourage them to go when it is time, put their children in a dangerous place. Their only option is to rebel: “I’m leaving whether you like it or not.”
In that state, kids are more vulnerable to pitfalls. They’ll connect with whoever happens to be available and that might not be good. The only approach is to accept this stage as normal, natural and healthy and encourage it to happen when the time is right.
Don’t miss this opportunity. The kids will love you for making it happen.