It’s hard to think of letting go of your baby, right when they are handed to you in the hospital – but in reality, that is when the separation begins. From the first day we adopt, birth, or parent a child in any way – we are in the process of learning to love, and eventually, let go. That is why I wrote about ten ways to teach kids independence.
As I’ve given birth to five, adopted one, step parented one, and fostered another – I’ve seen this to be the case. Sometimes, it’s actually harder for me to let go than it is for them. We invest so many seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months and years. We pray for them, talk to them, kiss and love them. We practice keeping our cool, even when we feel very hot, and we try to be the very best parent we can be.
The second a baby is old enough to wiggle out of our arms, they do. They are eager to crawl and walk. We feed them, until they are ready to feed themselves. We hand them a toy and they throw it. The next thing we know, they’re dating and driving.
So how do we protect our children without having a heart attack as the challenges get bigger and bigger? I’ve put together a list of ideas that seem to have worked for me, so far. Parenting is a very personal journey, and our kids are all very different – so take it for what it’s worth – just one perspective.
Let them choose things that matter to them
While the kids are young, let them choose things that matter to them. I’m not saying to give them everything they want, but I am saying if they want to wear one outfit over another – let them. Sometimes this can be embarrassing, but mostly I think it’s beautiful. As I watched my daughter walk into church in her pink cowgirl boots and purple dress and Jordan in his batman costume to the movies – I also saw a kids that looked proud of themselves.
If you give them other options such as what they’d like to eat for dinner, what show they watch or which friend to play with that day – they begin to have confidence in their decision making skills, and they dare to choose more.
Give them small tasks
Give them small tasks and have them report back when they have accomplished them. If they believe they can do small things for you, then they will trust themselves to set bigger goals as they grow older. Make sure to take the time to give them feedback and positive reinforcement. This can be hard because as a parent, you are always multitasking!
Leave the kids behind sometimes:
Remember to leave the kids behind sometimes. It’s okay to go on a date or plan time away with your husband. It’s good for the kids to see that you put your relationship first. I think it really helps to explain to the kids that in order to have a healthy marriage, you have to take time away. If you’re single, or married, it’s also good to have some time with friends or family. Do your research and find a good babysitter, one that comes highly recommended from a trusted source. It’s okay to call and check on the kids, but try to enjoy yourself.
Let them spend time with friends:
Encourage your kids to make friends at school and help them spend time with them, when possible. A few hours away from home, and getting the chance to see how another family functions can be a great learning experience. Ask them if they listened, helped out, cleaned up after themselves, behaved appropriately etc. Let them know you are proud that they are growing up and becoming so independent.
Let them do their own homework and projects:
Help them with their homework, but also let them struggle to do it on their own. I always chuckle when I see a science fair project that was obviously completed by a parent. It’s good to give your kid help – of course, but I believe it’s about them. Let the kids learn about their subject and teach it in a way that works for them. It may not be as pretty, but they will learn a lot.
Encourage your children to talk with adults:
Encourage your children to talk with adults when necessary. The world if full of texting and countless opportunities to side-step real life interaction. Help them understand how to approach people that are older than them. Talk them through the conversation they will be having. Teach them to look the adult in their eyes and respond when spoken to – even when they are young. They may not do it at first, but if they grow up understanding that this is expected, it will be easier for them when they are older to have job interviews and healthy relationships.
Help them learn about money:
Help your kids understand how money works. Honestly, this is one I’ve struggled with. I go back and forth all the time, whether it’s better to pay my kids to do jobs – so they understand how to save and budget – or if it’s expected because they’re a part of the family and they need to pitch in. We’ve landed somewhere in the middle. I expect certain jobs to be done, and if they choose to go above and beyond, then we agree on a price that the extra job is worth. I know there are lots of different ways of doing this, but regardless of your route, it’s important.
Talk about the future:
Talk about the future with them. Talk about the lessons they’d like to take, classes in school they might enjoy, and different career options that would fit their personality and passions. They will begin seeing themselves as adults, and hopefully make more informed decisions as they go through the crazy teenage years. Help them realize how fast time goes and how every decision that they make will affect them, and others.
Do service projects with your kids:
Do service projects with your kids. When they get a chance to help other people out, they will have a broader view of the world. They won’t judge others as harshly, and they will look for ways to be independent someday. Hopefully they will set goals to support themselves and continue giving back.
Build a foundation of faith:
I believe that as I help my kids build a foundation of faith, they will more easily be able to go into the world and trust themselves, because they feel the support of their higher power – whatever that may be. In our house, it’s our Heavenly Father, but there are lots of different religious beliefs and ways to feel love. Teach them that they are special, just the way they are. I love my kids and I try to be patient with them, because I need them to be patient with me. Parenting is the next step after getting through childhood. It’s an extension of our experience of growing up, and we are learning the best way to do it each day.
I don’t write this article because I have it all figured it, I write it because I’m trying to figure it out. I have done some things right and I could have done a lot of things better. What have you learned? I’d love to hear what has worked for you.