We were watching the classic movie "The Happiest Millionaire." We were being entertained by how difficult it was for the father, played by Fred MacMurray, to let his daughter go when she wanted to get married. Finally, he realized his place and said to his wife, who realized it before he did, "We have to let them go."
Every parent has to reach this point before their children can progress in their own lives. Sometimes parents think they've let go but still hold on in unhealthy ways. Here are a few things parents can do to help their child successfully move into adulthood and leave the comforts of home.
1. Minimize the phone calls
Excessive calling keeps the child tied too closely to a parent. A mother seems to have the hardest time with this, especially with her daughter. When a child goes off to college, she needs to start developing a life and making decisions on her own. If every decision is reviewed with parents, this only creates more dependency on them. Of course, important decisions need to be discussed with parents, but there really aren't too many of those.
A young engaged man broke his engagement because he could see his fiancée was tied too closely to her mother. She and her mother talked on the phone 4 to 5 times a day. It was as though she could do nothing without first discussing it with her mother. He talked to his fiancée about it. She replied that she could never stop being this close to her mother. He could see this would be a big problem in their marriage, and he broke the engagement. If you want your kids to have a successful marriage, back off.
2. Teach them to be financially independent
. You'll have a much easier time with this if you have instilled a strong work ethic and encouraged your children to use their own money for some of their expenses when they are teenagers or younger. If that has been happening, it won't be a shock when they are out on their own. When young adult children are given all they need and want by parents who just want to help them have an easier time of it, they are actually doing the opposite. Making it too easy will make the rest of their lives too hard.
A father-in-law kept showering his daughter with expensive gifts for her new home, including a big screen TV, a microwave oven, and a new couch. The new husband, though he enjoyed the gifts felt of little use. He wanted to be the one to provide these things for their home, even though his salary wouldn't allow them to be as elaborate. He shared his feelings separately with his wife and father-in-law. They both understood. The father-in-law apologized and realized he was no longer his daughter's provider. The couple then went forth on their own. Good relationships were maintained by all.
If you've been supporting your adult children, stop it. Have a conversation with them and apologize for treating them like children. Let them know they are old enough to be on their own. Now, you will respect their adulthood by not paying their way anymore. Express your confidence in them and their ability to take care of themselves. That's respectful and will be a great gift to help them along their way. That doesn't mean you never give them a financial boost, it just means you are cautious about it, making it a rare surprise, not something they're expecting or on which they are relying.
3. Let them know you love them
Be sure you keep in touch regularly, not obsessively. Never stop telling your daughter or son how much you love her or him.
We have to be willing to let them go when that time arrives. Letting them go doesn't mean you stop loving them. On the contrary, it means you are willing to show a greater love that leads them along their own journey. They will have hard times, no doubt about it - we all do. Handling those hard times is what helps them grow and appreciate what they have.
4. Pray for them
As parents, our greatest desire is to rear our children in ways that will help them have happy, successful lives of their own, and we need divine help to do it well. Praying for them and for wisdom in dealing with them has brought us a great deal of peace. It comforts us to know that even though we may not be there, God is. He loves them, too, and will watch over and guide them in amazing ways.
Jonas Salk said, "Good parents give their children roots and wings. Roots to know where home is wings to fly away and exercise what's been taught them." Holding on as they emerge into adulthood can thwart their progress. We have to let them go.