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Cut the Apron Strings

 Letting Go

When our children are born, we immediately and instinctively protect them. It is our job to do anything in our power to keep them safe and guard them from the world and the dangers it holds. But eventually, each of our children must be ready to face the world alone, as confident and intelligent adults. The only way to achieve this is to embrace the heart-breaking truth- that we need to constantly, yet slowly, foster independence.

The good news is that this release does not have to happen in one fail swoop. Instead we must nurture our children and grow their independence and responsibility, one small step at a time. Teaching your toddler to make his or her own decisions is one of the first steps. Letting them choose their clothes, their food, or their activity are ways to make them confident decision makers in the future.

Another big step towards independence is school. Tearful parents abound on the first day of kindergarten; but really, shouldn’t it be cause for celebration? You did it mama (or dad)! You instilled enough strength and independence in your child for them to walk confidently into this new phase of life! Congratulations!

Middle school brings a whole new level of independence, the apron strings loosening further still, leaving more room for learning, mistakes, and discovering who your child is outside your home. Our relationships with our children become secondary to peer connections and we see them grow and learn how to function outside of our family unit.

Perhaps no other step is as scary or independence boosting as a child receiving his or her driver’s license. Again our control is lessened, our teen’s opportunities for both success and failure exponentially increased. With this comes fear, apprehension for parents, but also new responsibility and control for the teen.

Finally, graduation approaches. This is the ultimate release of control. As your child prepares to leave home, take  

comfort that you have been cutting these ties for years, one strand at a time. You gave them room to spread their wings, prepared and taught them the dos and don’ts of flying, you have gone over flight plans and done all you can to prepare them. Now, the only way for your baby bird will truly learn to fly is through this gentle nudge out of the nest. Sit back and instead of crying about the times you shared in the nest, smile and take pride in the fact that your efforts over the last 18 years have somehow created the beautiful soaring child you now see in the distant sky. You did it! You have given your child wings. There is no greater gift. Sit back, and watch your child soar!

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Barb, LMHC, CPC, Ed.M, CAS  

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