Now that you have come to a point where your adult, or almost adult, children have left home and are living independently, how do you let go enough to give them room to grow and develop, but stay connected enough to maintain the relationship as it will be going forward? Most parents face this challenge! Most children who are leaving the nest feel some conflict about leaving the safety and security of parents.
The first question to ask yourself is “Do I feel that my child is ready enough to face the world?” If the answer is “No”, why not? Since they are leaving, or have already left, what will they still need from you? And how will you deliver, given that contact will likely be only on their terms?
If the answer is “Yes”, what foundation and skills have you provided that you believe will help them to manage the tasks of independent living? Will they still need more? Probably they will, or if not more of the same, then at least information about new areas of life.
And, how will you provide what they need and want when you may be staying in touch mostly by virtual contact such as voicemail, email and text, facebook, or by phone calls, skype, or face time?
You will want to know how they are doing. Often, they will relate a carefully edited version of that, wanting to be seen as independent and doing well. You will not know much about what they are doing unless they choose to share, so an important task will be to maintain the lines of communication in ways that keep it safe for them to disclose without too much anxiety about how you will respond.
Staying connected will allow you to know something about how they are coping with important areas of independent living, such as:
*Managing self care such as nutrition, sleep, safety, exercise, health, etc.
*Managing relationships; choosing healthy friends and possibly romantic partners, handling and resolving conflict
*Managing work; seeking and keeping a job
*Managing money, including credit
*Problem solving, developing and using resources and making thoughtful decisions
*Emotional well being; are they resilient enough to deal with the bumps in the road and enjoy the journey?
There are some ways you can monitor possible distress indicators, and stay connected with your adult child in doing so.
1. Absolutely consider asking for a regular weekly time to chat. Keep the chat pretty short – 5-10 minutes, unless they ask for more. Make it a priority to have that conversation. If this becomes a habit, it will work well for a long, long time.
2. Follow them on Twitter, Instagram, be a Facebook friend, etc. They have to agree to let you do this, but in my experience they also want to stay connected to you, but connected on their own terms. If you don’t know how to set up the account, ask them to set it up for you. While they limit your access through their privacy settings you will still be able to see some pictures, comments, etc.
3. For many college bound kids, their money comes from using a debit card tied to an account that you share and/or using a credit card that is billed to you. Watching where the money goes can be informative as you will see if they are eating, partying, etc, as long as you resist the temptation to speak to them about what you see. (Of course, if they are managing their money poorly and coming to you for more, discussion is fully warranted)
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but you get the picture.
For many parents the hardest thing about letting go is staying connected. It can be done! Remember; your children want most of all for you to see them as successful. Make it easy to stay connected and you will be on hand to help as appropriate. If your distress at having them go becomes acute to the point where it is negatively impacting your interactions with your adult child, consider some counseling – a few sessions with someone like me can make a world of difference!