Updated: Jul 27
Parents typically care about their children a significant amount, so much that it gets to a point that they want to control their behaviors for their well-being. When their off springs are young this is most definitely acceptable, as children’s knowledge about the world is minimal and it is the parent’s job to teach and guide them. Children require numerous years of guidance as parents teach them to become independent, intelligent, and safe in their world. However, sometimes parents hang on to their children for too long…when they have passed the marker of independence and are able to make their own decisions and survive on their own. This is a time when parents struggle to let go, for fear of their child-turned-adult’s safety and well-being. The following information will help those parents release their hold on their children and provide them space to grow and increase autonomy.
To begin, parents should switch gears from raising a happy and protected child, to guide an adult child who understands self-efficacy, an individual’s belief in his or her capacity to execute behaviors. This allows the adult child to gain new skills that will lead to a fulfilling and meaningful life, as they begin to think and utilize their autonomy. In addition, the next step is to help your child help themselves, which refers to having your child complete tasks or answer questions on their own, rather than coming to you for the answers. This permits your now young adult to realize they can handle situations on their own and permits parents to move on from having to constantly be at their service.
Letting go of your children is hard, there is no doubt about it, but starting small is a good way to begin to avoid changes feeling drastic so quickly. For example, setting boundaries is a healthy way at both having the parent let go, while at the same time letting the child begin to separate himself/herself from his/her parents. Some children have no problem with this and begin the process even earlier then desired, while others will cling to their parents who decide to “helicopter” over them for most of their life. Boundaries are important, as they allow children to learn from their own mistakes and provides them the opportunity to either make good choices resulting with positive rewards or bad decisions with negative consequences.
This next tip may be an eye-opener, as it discusses the emotions of the parent rather than the child. Parents may feel frustrated or upset when their child does or does not do something that they believe should be well known by a given point in their development. This pushes parents to take control of their behaviors once again because “they don’t know any better” which may not be the case, as the child may know but would rather do something else due to their youth and maturity. For example, taking out the trash may be something they should do without being told, but instead of focusing on a chore they instead decide to go play video games with a friend. Instead of accusing your child of not making a good choice, be sure to check your own emotions and think of why you are so upset and approach the problem in a different way besides anger or frustration.
Lastly, some parents often fear for their children’s safety resulting in the overprotective helicopter parent, as they tend to always think of the worst-case scenario. Once your child is old enough, it is time to let go of your own expectations of what your role as a parent means, and shift towards being a supportive, nurturing, and helpful parent. In return, a parent may create a deeper and more meaningful relationship with their child, through acceptance, trust, and understanding.