The fine art of letting go |

The fine art of letting go

Where’s the line between caring and coddling as we begin to let go? One day we are holding our helpless bundle and the next we are kissing them goodbye. It takes courage to let go of our children as they climb the ladder toward independence. Ask yourself truthfully, “Do I want my child to be independent?” and “Will I be happy when my child no longer needs my protection and guidance?” With graduation season upon us, what have we done to prepare our children for the world independent from us?

There are roughly 76,000,000 boomer parents (those born between 1946 and 1964) the wealthiest and best-educated generation of parents in human history and they have had remarkable resources to support them in raising an estimated 80 million children. They are determined to give their children the best. However, with the best of intentions, a generation of children now exists that don’t know how to let go of their parents. A generation of young adults, who struggle to find the confidence to make decisions and face the world with excitement, not fear.

Parents who coddle may cripple their children’s ability to make good decisions as a young adult and in turn, cripple their sense of self-sufficiency. Children build their confidence by tackling things that are difficult and when they have managed well and succeeded, they earn real self-esteem. Self-esteem is not built when someone else is making the decisions and hovering, following every miss step and offering advice when none is being sought.

Recently, I was sitting at breakfast with Howard Zehr, a professor at the Eastern Mennonite University and also a father. We were discussing his career and our focus turned to the changes he has witnessed in his 30 years of teaching and his comment scared me a bit. He said that students now have a very difficult time making decisions and trusting themselves to choose their courses, find their apartments, buy their own food and schedule their days without worrying what their parents would do or if they are doing it right. He has had parents call him, checking on how their child did on a test and the most concerning thing is that the parents don’t even recognize that their behavior is in any way detrimental to their child’s, or should I say their adult child’s, ability to be self-sufficient.

The fine line between caring and coddling begins the day we hold our baby for the first time. Every day we, as parents, are faced with a choice and we need to begin asking ourselves, “Is this a decision that my child can and should make for themselves?” If your answer is yes, than put your arm around your child’s shoulder and ask them how they think they will handle the situation. Then sit back and watch your child move up that ladder towards independence.

Today we can begin to be OK with the idea that our children will make mistakes and have bad days, just like we did, and more importantly we can also believe that they will fix it without our help and in that way they will have the confidence to create a satisfying life for themselves. If you are wondering more about the art of letting go, please call YouthZone at 945-9300 to schedule a parent consultation in any of our four offices from Aspen to Parachute.

— Lori Mueller is the Executive Director for YouthZone. She can be reached at

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