5 Ways You Can Let Go Now
- Vicki Caruana Author
- 2017 25 May
Letting Go Can Be Life-Giving
My niece is graduating from high school 2000 miles away. I can’t attend this auspicious occasion, so I decided that I would send her something both to commemorate this milestone and support her some of her first steps of independence. I’ve done this before for other nieces and nephews and usually came up with some clever “going away to college” swag. This time, however, I was stumped. Kate isn’t going away to college. She’s living at home and attending community college. I’m reminded of how our youngest opted not to go to college; he went to a technical school instead. I had to let go of my insistent expectation of college. I had to find a way to celebrate his independence even though he was living at home while going to school. And now I need to find a way to give my niece something that is life-giving for her future as well.
Excerpt from The Joy of Letting Go:
There was a plan. We had a plan. And when I say “we” what I mean to say is “me.” I went to college. In fact, I was a first generation college graduate. My husband went to college— he attended four on the journey to finding himself. I am an educator and I believed that going to college was the best (only?) path. So it was a given that our children would be college bound too. It was a frequent topic of dinner time conversation throughout their growing up. Frequent enough that neither could claim ignorance, but not so frequent that they hid their distaste for it like peas under their mashed potatoes.
Our firstborn went to college; in fact he attended my alma mater. He lived on campus but was close enough to come home whenever he wanted. I worked on that campus, so he bought me a cup of coffee now and then. His brother was pointed in the same direction. He was accepted, he had a dorm room reserved, and his first semester’s schedule was set. Everything was going according to plan. All that remained was to successfully complete his last semester of his senior year in high school, and then he would start college mid-summer, not even waiting for the Fall. Getting here wasn’t easy. School for Charles was like riding a bicycle through the mud; slow going and took a lot of energy just to stay upright.
He knew how to ride a bike. But we should have chosen a path made for his type of tires.
The semester came to an end along with a lower than anticipated GPA. His acceptance to college now rescinded; our son was relieved. I, on the other hand, was mystified. He didn’t want to go to college?
He wanted to go to technical school. It took a degree of self-sabotage on Charles’s part for me to finally see that I needed to let go of my plan, so that he could embrace his. He needed to choose his own path.
Sometimes what you think is the best choice may not be the right choice. We need to allow our kids to tell us they don’t like peas instead of resorting to hiding them under their mashed potatoes. What’s the worst that could happen? If you offer a variety, they might discover they like another green vegetable instead. In the end, it’s their life.
Is there a well-defined path set for your son or daughter? When we celebrate our children’s choice, we help to birth their futures. Here are some ideas of how to let go in a life-giving way of your graduates – whether they are graduating from kindergarten, high school or college.
1. Make room in your life for your children’s plans. Start including your kids in the planning of events, outings, trips, and even meals. Eventually, let them take the lead to plan each of these on their own. That way you’ll both get used to them making and executing their own life plans.
2. Help your kids keep track of their own progress. Following through on a project to completion and managing one’s time are what we call “executive functions.” Executive functions are a direct pipeline to self-regulation and independence. Encourage your kids to post on a family calendar their upcoming deadlines and events (e.g., science fair project, soccer tryouts, field trip, etc.) and then help them create a checklist of what has to be done when in order to meet those deadlines.
3. Teach your children to stand up for themselves. How often do you find yourself running interference for your children? Fighting our children’s battles only makes them weak, not stronger. Look for opportunities for them to stand on their own – to challenge a grade, to respectfully disagree with an elder, to express their likes and dislikes, to confront a bully, to ask for time off at their job for a family event, so that they can be the warrior that someday will battle for someone they love and care for.
4. Encourage critical thinking so they can think for themselves. Decision-making and problem-solving are crucial adult skills we need to foster in our children. We’ve spent a lot of time offering our children choices – do you want this or do you want that? Usually these are equal choices; ones that we have decided on ahead of time. Start by asking your kids to come up with their own choices and possible solutions to problems. What do you think might improve this situation? They can still talk through a problem or choice with you, but ultimately they need to make the decision.
5. Let your children learn from their mistakes. It is so tempting to shield our kids from the fallout of a bad decision. We want to be their net in case they fall from the high wire of their lives. Most of their mistakes won’t be life-threatening, but instead can be life-giving. Encourage your children to examine what they could have done differently to avoid a particular mistake. Learning from their own mistakes will make their future successes theirs – not ours.
Letting go is a process, not an event. Letting go can be life-giving and empowering. How can we know when to let go and when to hold on tight? Can we remember to celebrate our children’s milestones with a joy-filled heart that focuses on their future without mourning over our past? We can and we must.
I found just the right graduation gift for my niece. She may be living at home and not in a dorm, but she is still going to need textbooks. Most students opt not to buy their textbooks from the college textbook store because they are more expensive. More often they will either buy them used on Amazon or even rent them. A gift card for this very purpose is the perfect gift for this graduate. The idea is to give a gift that your graduate wants and not just the gift you want to give.
Author Dr. Vicki Caruana is known to parents and educators as an inspirational writer and speaker, having published 20 books and her popular Apples & Chalkdust blog. Her most recent book is The Joy of Letting Go: Releasing Your Teen into Real Life in the Big World.
Image courtesy: ©Thinkstock/XiXinXing
Publication date: May 25, 2017