Parents to recent grads, or those soon to graduate – congratulations! Raising a child is not easy. You have been through all sorts of ups and downs these last 18 years, but it was all worth it. Even if you don’t believe me yet, trust me, it was.
Now, even though your child is an adult and might even be moving out from under your roof, you are entering into one of the toughest parenting stages you have faced. You are going to have to learn how to let your child go, be more independent and live without you.
As hard as this may be, this is a good thing because, as I often say, great parenting is much more about letting go than holding on.
One of the best things you can do as a parent during this season in order to let your child go in a healthy way is to let your child fail. He is about to face adulthood for the first time. He is going to make some bad choices. Maybe he was a big fish in high school, but in college, this probably won’t be the case. He may not excel at each and every thing, and he will inevitably experience failure. My advice to you? Let him. Let him fail.
One of the best things you can do as a parent during this season in order to let your child go in a healthy way is to let your child fail.
This might sound strange. Aren’t I supposed to protect my child? Yes, but this is one of the best ways to protect her. A child will never learn to make it on her own if you are always there to fix her mistakes or, worse, prevent her from falling in the first place.
A child will never learn to make it on her own if you are always there to fix her mistakes or, worse, prevent her from falling in the first place.
One of my favorite conversations from my Parenting Great Kids podcast was with my friend John O’Leary. John is the author of the best-selling book On Fire: The 7 Choices to Ignite a Radically Inspired Life. In it, he tells his incredible story of surviving a house fire when he was nine years old. In the fire, John suffered third-degree burns on 87% of his body—a death sentence by any doctor’s prognosis. Miraculously, John survived and now travels the country inspiring people to live their lives without fear.
One of the most impacting moments for John happened when he first got home from the hospital after being in recovery. His fingers had just been amputated due to his injuries and when his family sat down to dinner, he looked at his mom, expecting her to help feed him. After all, he didn’t have any fingers!
What did his mom do? She refused to help her son and sat there until John figured out how to lift the fork himself.
It seems cruel, doesn’t it? To not swoop in and save your child during his time of need. At the time, John says, he was furious. Today, as a parent of four children himself, he understands his mother’s motive: “She was teaching me to live,” he says.
Parents, this is the perfect example of how to let your kids go during this season and ensure that they succeed in adulthood, that they live. You let them figure it out. You let them fail. John eventually figured out how to feed himself without fingers. And today, he travels by himself, speaks to crowds, is married with a wonderful family. His near-death experience has not hindered his life at all and he credits his mom for his success.
“Our job as parents,” John says, “is to lead [our kids] forward, to love them after their fall, and make sure they realize they can pick themselves up.”
It’s hard to watch your kids fall when they are living under your roof. It is equally, if not harder, to watch them fall from a distance. But seeing them pick themselves back up is incredibly rewarding, for you and for them.
Parents of graduates, I am proud of you. I’m rooting for you. I know this is a hard season of letting go, but your kids are stronger than you think they are. I know this because you are their parent.