Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Healthy Separations: Saying Goodbye and Letting Go

In the course of raising children we go through repeated separations, from the time they take their first tottery steps to explore the world on their own, to the time they board the school bus for the first time, to the time they finally leave home for college or to live on their own. 

For what it's worth, here is some advice for parents whose offspring are leaving the family nest.

1. Release your hold. You've done the best you can during the years you've been together. A freeing, adult-to-adult closeness develops best after possessive clutching and helicopter parenting ends. Your ability to gain positive influence in increases as your power struggle over control decreases.

2. Limit your lectures. Your offspring know your values and beliefs quite well by now and seldom benefit from too constant reminders.

3. Maintain regular contact.  Periodic cards, letters, visits, care packages, and media conversations can all be good ways of maintaining positive ties with young adults away from home. But don't text then every hour 24/7.

4. Avoid interrogation.  Young adults don't enjoy having every conversation with parents becoming a game of "twenty questions."

5. Negotiate major differences.  If there are issues that need to be resolved between you, agree on a time and place for an adult-to-adult "mediation session." Don't sneak in your agenda at unexpected times, hoping to gain control by catching someone off guard.

6. Don't become over-responsible. Young adults need to deal with the consequences of their own adult decisions, and not be rescued from every emergency they may create for themselves.

7. Become re-acquainted as fellow adults. Set aside quality time for good conversation and renewing friendship with your son or daughter as you would with a valued peer.

8. Expect changes. Growth always brings change, and no one will never be quite the same after having new experiences away from home.

9. Separate people from problems. If you find your son or daughter making choices that are disappointing to you, don't hesitate to talk about those choices and about how they affect you.  But don't let your differences overshadow all you have in common and all you mean to each other.

10. Pay attention to your own separation issues. Pay attention to conflicts and enmeshments in your own family of origin, and share some of your own family stories and experiences with your son or daughter.

Remember, being in control as parents lasts for only a short time, but maintaining good family ties and having a positive influence are for a lifetime.
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