Want Independent Kids? Let Them Go

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Image via Katie Hurley

Letting go is always the hardest part. No one tells you that when you’re gliding through life in a sleep-deprived state of partial amnesia with multiple babies in tow.

They tell you to enjoy every moment, and you do your best to take that advice. They tell you hold them close while you can, so you hug them every chance you get. They tell you that childhood is short, and you try to take that in (despite the muscles that will hardly move after a long night of tending to sick babies). But they don’t tell you about the letting go.

They don’t tell you that your heart will nearly stop every time you have to say goodbye. They don’t tell you about the intrusive thoughts, the ones that you are certain are actually premonitions that spark a belief that you have to get back to your baby right this very second. They don’t tell you about the tears, the heartache, and the mommy-please-can-I-stay-with-yous. No, they don’t tell you any of that.

They should. Because the letting go, the constricted heart wrapped in anxiety, is the very thing that will help your child find her way. It is the thing that gives children the opportunity to become more independent, even if it leaves moms everywhere in a pool of tears.

People always say that the job of the parents is to raise independent kids, but that’s not as simple as it seems. Kids can’t always run free the way that they used to, and the rise of structured activities leaves little room for building these important skills.

I watch from afar as my daughter races off on her bike. Her goggles and towel in her basket and her hair flowing in the wind at her back, she makes her way to her swimming class all by herself. In the summer, in a beach town safe from harm and fast drivers, I can finally give my oldest some of that independence she so craves. Her self-confidence is soaring. She feels responsible, capable, and strong. She is all of those things and then some. But still, my heart flutters as I watch her go. I crane my neck to catch sight of her as baby brother and I ride behind and stop to smell the roses. I taught her the way. She can find her way to Mimi’s if something goes wrong. She knows that if she identifies herself using my maiden name, any number of moms and grandmothers will come to the rescue and bring her back to me, my mom, or one of my siblings. But still, those pesky worries linger because letting go is the hardest part.

People always say that the job of the parents is to raise independent kids, but that’s not as simple as it seems. Kids can’t always run free the way that they used to, and the rise of structured activities leaves little room for building these important skills. So how do parents raise independent kids today? They take baby steps.

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Want Independent Kids? Let Them Go

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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1 comment

  1. Josie says:

    As a teacher, I see parents every year who insist on walking their child to the classroom door, opening backpacks, hanging up coats, even arriving during lunch to feed their child. These behaviors reflect the needs of the parent rather than the needs of the child. Our goal as parents should be to raise independent, brave children who then grow into self-sufficient adults.

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