Freedom-Letting go of our children

XsdjlM1441893627Previously I have written about letting go of our children as they reach those milestones in their life. Whilst I did, it struck me that there is another aspect to letting go and it is one that I am in the full swing of at the moment. It is the gradual process of giving our children more and more freedom as they become increasingly capable individuals.

Moving away from protection

When our kids are young we protect them in every way. We are there all the time. We don’t even leave the room unless we are sure they are safe. As they get older this changes. They play around the house and loud crashes, tears or ominous lengths of quiet alert us to problems. However, they are still within our domain and we (or another trusted adult) are always there. But gradually as they get older they need more freedom. They want to test themselves. They want to go out and play unsupervised or go to the shops alone. The older they get the more they push for that ever important space, to discover themselves in the world.

For us as parents it is a constant balancing act. Weighing up the risk factors and our child’s abilities is never easy and at the back of our minds are always the fears of the more serious things that could go wrong.

The drive for independence

Our children need to expand. They need to test themselves and that means that we must release a certain amount of control. We need to learn to trust them gradually more and more. We need to trust that they will cope even if there are times when things don’t go to plan. This is never easy but necessary.

The alternative to this often uncomfortable readjustment for us is to keep our children restricted, holding them back from what they can do and that is not a great option for them or us. Children need to grow and learn to develop their own skills. They need to learn to trust themselves. They need to go out in the world and learn, some of which they will do by making mistakes.

Discovery

When I look back on my school years (both primary school and senior school) many of the things I remember are the mistakes I made or the tough parts. Not because I still feel bad about them but because they were turning points for me, times when I learnt about myself and who I was.

– I remember taking a risk and realising afterwards that it was not worth it.

– I remember doing something unkind (not massively so) and realising that this was not me.

– I remember putting myself down so others would like me and deciding that I would rather be alone and would never do that again.

– I remember being treated poorly by my friends and making the decision to walk away.

– I remember one of the local bullies turning her attention to me and discovering that I could hold my own even though it hurt.

– I remember being lost and having to sort it out myself.

These were all things that happened without adult supervision. They were difficult moments but ones that helped me discover myself, discover my boundaries, principals and develop my ability to be my own person.

Letting go

From an adult perspective, letting go is hard. We know the risks, and our instincts tell us to protect. But our role is far greater than that. We are about developing our children into adults with all the coping skills and abilities they will need for the task. We can’t do that by holding onto them all the time.

So how to go about giving more freedom. Well I am still in the midst of learning and indeed there can be no right approach because each child is different. As parents we know our children better than anyone else and what their strengths and challenges are.

There are some things we can do gradually or in phases, like progressing from crossing quiet roads to busier ones or going out to play unsupervised for longer and longer stints. Giving our children greater amounts of freedom and responsibility gradually allows them (and us) to iron out any issues as they come up.

However, there are some things where we have to, after a suitable amount of consideration, take a deep breath and just let them do, like walking to school alone or getting on the bus for the first time. We have to hand over that responsibility to our inexperienced children in order that they can become experienced and be the capable adults that they can be.

Are you in the process of giving your child more freedom? How does it feel? Is there some step in the future that your child will take that concerns you? or Do you have any advice for another parent walking this path? I would love to hear from you and get your views. I reply to every comment.

So what is next?

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59 thoughts on “Freedom-Letting go of our children

    1. Hi Erica, It is hard and it is a balancing act where we as adults have to weigh up all the invaluable information. It is still not easy though because so much is unknown. Thanks for your comment. Kirsten

  1. This is such a wonderful and thought provoking post. I try to allow my daughter to be as independent as possible. But sometimes it’s hard to let go. Thank you for sharing this on Blinky Linky today.

    1. Hi Trisha. Thank you for your kind words and comment. It is genuinely wonderful and tough all at the same time isn’t it! Kirsten

  2. Hi Kristen, love this post. It is never easy letting go of our children, but without our trust and a certain amount of freedom it is impossible for our children to grow up to be well balanced adults who are capable of making their own decisions. As children develop and mature differently thy aren’t always ready for the same amount of freedom at the same age, so it is up to the parents to know when their child is ready to be given more freedom.

    Talking and preparing children is an excellent way of gauging when they are ready, then when we let them go we know that we have prepared them as best we can and that the rest they have to learn as they go along; just as we did.

    My daughter who is 15 wants to University in the UK when she reaches 18, so I know I have three years left to help her prepare for tat big move and without a little freedom now she will never cope then.

    #PoCoLo
    Debbie recently posted…Oh Me, Oh My! I’m Back From My Unscheduled Break…My Profile

    1. Hi Debbie. Thank you for sharing your insights on this matter. It is never easy and often the decisions we have to make are not clear cut.
      Your advice about using talking as a way to assess our child’s readiness is a very good one. That and practice are so useful.
      Thanks for sharing and best of luck with the next three years. Kirsten

  3. I feel like I’m letting go a little bit more everyday with my oldest who is only three! But like you say, he is becoming increasingly independent and no longer needs me for a lot of the things he used to! Thankfully he still loves lots of cuddles! I’m dreading this time next year when he starts school though – which, as a teacher, is crazy as you’d think I’d be all for it. Letting go is so hard but it’s a part of life and we have to let our children do it to grow into the adults we are raising them to be 🙂
    Becky (@attwtwo) recently posted…How Long is Forever?My Profile

    1. Hi Becky, Being a parent changes our perspective on children and them starting school, wether we are a teacher or not, is a big milestone. A phase of life has past and a new one begins which is both sad and exciting. I would agree, the process of letting go is constant but some times it is more noticeable than others. Thank you so much for your comment. It is appreciated. Kirsten

    1. Hi Victoria. I would have to agree with you, It is not easy. We know that they need freedom but getting the balance right is so hard. When, where and how much do we let them go at any point in time is a complex decision because they are still young. Best of luck with this continuing challenge. Thanks for commenting. Kirsten

  4. Fantastic post! My daughter just turned three, and I’ve been forcing myself to step back a lot more lately. I miss helping her get dressed and putting on her shoes. I suppose it’s because I’m still wishing for those baby days that I will never have back. Even letting go of the little things is hard sometimes! 🙂

    1. You are so right Katie. the milestones are up there and very noticeable but those personal things that we have always done are just as (if not more) important. Thank you for adding to this conversation. It is appreciated. Kirsten

  5. It’s funny because I was just thinking about this yesterday & the freedom I had as a child. My sister & I used to head off on our bikes for the day. It’s just not the same anymore, I wouldn’t feel comfortable letting my kids out of my sight. My kids are 8, 6 & 2 so hopefully when they are older I will feel differently. I think letting them make their own mistakes is an important part of maturity & growing up. #mummyandus x
    Becky, Cuddle Fairy recently posted…The Baby Sleep SiteMy Profile

    1. Hi Becky, Like you I know that I had more freedom than my children do and that bothers me. They do need to learn and some of that will be through things going wrong and them coping. One thing I say to my eldest is ‘But you managed’ so that he knows that even though something was not pleasant he did actually cope.

      Letting go is a gradual process and one that we all have to work out for ourselves. Thanks for your comment. Kirsten

  6. This is another great post. It’s so important to give children the freedom to fail, and to learn from their mistakes. Even with my very little children I try to give them time and space to figure things out on their own. But no doubt as they get older and the risks get greater it will get tougher and tougher. Thanks for sharing.
    Kyles (Bookish Mummy) recently posted…Fighting fires: Toddler disciplineMy Profile

    1. ‘Freedom to Fail’ is a perfect way to sum it up. this can be counter intuitive as parents. We naturally want to protect our children from difficulties even if it is just distress at making a mistake but in the long run doing this often doesn’t help. Thank you Kyles for you insightful comment. Kirsten

  7. Really interesting post. I find it so difficult knowing the difficulties my children will face growing up. When they are at school dealing with playground issues and knowing I can’t be there is really tough. But I also know my parents over protected me and so I try to stand back more with my children, letting them be able to grow and develop as they need to in order to be healthy adults. Finding the balance isn’t always easy. #mummyandus
    Mackenzie Glanville recently posted…my girls #mummyandusMy Profile

    1. It is the eternal challenge of parenting, balance. There is no perfect. I have been there. It is so hard to know when to step in, more so I think as they get older. We know they need to learn independence but don’t want to leave them to cope with more than they can handle or is good for them. There are no easy answers. I often feeling that I am just feeling my way through each situation, trying something and seeing what happens. Thanks Mackenzie for sharing your experiences. It is appreciated as always. Kirsten

  8. My little girl is only 4 months; the only letting go I’ve experienced is one night at her grandparents and it was horrible and emotional. I’ve just got so much love for her but I do know once she starts showing independence she will need me to let her branch out so she can grow. Lovely post! Popping over from #mummymonday xx
    Stephanie (OurNextFewSteps) recently posted…Our Holiday to SkegnessMy Profile

    1. Hi Stephanie. It is probably hard to imagine right now. Of course it is not easy but I also find myself feeling excited for my boys as they master new skills. It is amazing to see them grow up wether they are 4 months, 4 years or older. Thanks for commenting. Kirsten

  9. I can remember the day that my mum first let me get the bus into town to meet my friends, on my own, for the first time. That was such a big day for me but now that I’m a mum, I can really appreciate how hard it must’ve been for my own mum to ‘let go’ that day, and give me that freedom. My daughter is only 17-months old but I already know it’s going to be so challenging when the time comes to give her that independence of her own. It certainly is a balancing act!!

    Great post. 🙂

    #MummyMonday
    Jenna recently posted…The Motte {Living Arrows #7}My Profile

    1. Hi Jenna, I remember that day too. And there were no mobile phones. It must have been so hard. But she didn’t show it. Off I went with no idea that it was hard for her. We have to face a lot as a parent. thankfully it is a privilege to face these things with our children. It is a sign of them growing up happy and healthy. thanks for reading and sharing your memories. Kirsten

    1. Wow Nige. Thank you for that perspective. I know you have older children so I know that you have the experience. It is really reassuring to hear that. Kirsten

    1. Hi Debbie. It is not easy but on the other hand it is the better option out of everything. Seeing our children grow and be more and more independent is a great thing even if it makes us feel a sense of loss (and fear) occasionally. Thanks for hosting. Kirsten

    1. School is such a huge milestone and it really signifies a change of life for everyone. I found it very strange with each of my children going to school and when my youngest did it was even stranger. All of a sudden there was time to do all those things I wanted to do but I really missed my boys. I have to say that it was a couple of years ago and I have adjusted and even come to enjoy the freedom it gives me to do my own things. It is a time to rediscover you as a person. Best of luck with your transition. Kirsten

    1. Hi Fiona. Thank you for your kind words. It is something we all face and have to face it in our own way with the knowledge that we have of our children and the circumstances they are in. Kirsten

    1. Hi Su. My personal experience is that the tension between wanting to hold onto them and letting them go ebbs and flows. There are times when it is more pronounced and times when things just role along as ever. Thank so much for sharing your experiences. Kirsten

    1. Hi Heledd, I wonder if that is something that happens to younger siblings. It is the same for my youngest. He wants to be like his brother and it increases the pressure on us to give them their freedom. They are never easy judgements to make. Thanks for your comment. Kirsten

  10. My children are three and six so I haven’t really reached this stage yet or even thought about it burning agree it’s important and I can see that it will definitely be a wrench as a parent. It’s a leap of faith for sure and only time will tell how we all deal with it. #sharewithme
    Sam recently posted…The Truth about… #44My Profile

    1. Thanks for your comment Sam. I agree, it is a leap of faith, with as much preparation beforehand as possible. One that we all go through. Kirsten

    1. Hi Harps. It is a struggle but it is also exciting to see our children growing up and becoming more independent. Thanks for commenting. Kirsten

    1. Hi Caro. Motherhood has so many emotional contradictions it is unreal. What you describe is something we all seem to experience in one way or another. It is a part of being a Mum. Thanks for sharing your experiences. Kirsten

  11. My husband and I are at opposite ends of the spectrum on this. He holds on tight while I am much more hands off. We have learned to listen to each other and compromise. Right now we are heading into social media with our oldest children. They both have school-issued iPads that allow messaging. It’s been eye-opening. I am listening to him right now and trying to be diligent in checking their messages because not everyone is prince charming out there. My younger girls are learning household skills that I’m more than willing to turn over to them. There is a balance in everything.

    Thank you for leaving a comment on my blog a while ago. I replied to it there and am so glad to have found you and your lovely blog. I couldn’t find any social media buttons to follow so I subscribed! Have a wonderful day.
    Heaven recently posted…4 Star Seasoned CasseroleMy Profile

    1. Hi Heaven, You make a really important point. Letting go of our children is a balancing act that includes our partners too. As couples we often have differing opinions and we need to as you said ‘listen to each other’. Often when we do we get a good combination rather than following one approach or another.

      Thank you very much for your subscription. It means a lot. I have just been back to your site. Kirsten

  12. Letting go is hard both because you worry for your children and because part of you does not actually want to let go and you want them to remain your babies for ever. But they do grow up and the kindest thing you can do is gradually give them the independence to grow into responsible adults. They will get into some scrapes along the way but that is all part of the learning curve. #MyFavouritePost
    Rosie @Eco-Gites of Lenault recently posted…10 Foraging TipsMy Profile

    1. Hi Meredith, Your words ‘the thought of them going through hard times hurts my heart’ is so well put. WE want our children not to feel the pain that we have but we know that they need to learn like we have. Ahh it is not easy being a parent. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could hand on all our learning to them so they didn’t have to do it themselves. I am sure we do hand on some of it. Thanks for commenting. Kirsten

  13. I read that list and found it both beautiful and terrifying. I’d love my son to have such a list and I hope I can give him enough independence to have one. Thank you for sharing #fromtheheart

    1. I know just what you mean Charlene. We want to save our children from any difficulties but we also know that they grow and learn through them. Although it will be challenging to let your son go you will also feel so proud as he learns and grows. Thanks for your heart felt comment. Kirsten

  14. A very interesting question and a very relevant one especially at this time of the year when we have all just seen our children move forward into their next year. For us the move to Year 5 for our daughter has started with the ‘when can I walk to school by myself’ question. I guess it’s getting the balance right. When I think back to when I was her age, we probably did a lot more. We were allowed to go out from a younger age and we played out too. By the time secondary school came, we were used to being out. It’s only by giving responsibility to our children that they will learn to be responsible and safe as you say. I think bit by bit is the key. Great post Kirsten. #AnthingGoes
    Nicky Kentisbeer recently posted…How I’ll Remember SeptemberMy Profile

    1. Hi Nicky, My eldest has just started year 5 as well. Walking to school and other bits of freedom are becoming increasingly important. Bit by bit is the best. I agree with you that we had more freedom. I certainly did. However I find myself aware that secondary school is approaching fast and to have him ready we need to keep on with the bit by bit! Good luck with your daughter. It is a great if slightly nerve wracking age. Kirsten

  15. Times definitely have changed of letting our chlidren play out without our supervision these days. I remember doing it as a kid all the time but I don’t think I would ever let my own. It’s just different now. Thanks for linking up to Share With Me blog hop. I hope you have enjoyed reading so many fab other blog posts and to see you again tomorrow for another great round of #sharewithme
    jenny recently posted…Courgette & Carrot Spaghetti // RecipeMy Profile

    1. Hi Jenny, It is certainly a tough one. I just let my eldest off to play with a group of friends today and it was not easy but also wonderful to see him come home so happy and full of excitement. Thank you for hosting. your blog hop is always a great place. Kirsten

    1. Oh no Debs, I was hoping it did!! But actually I can see why not. Each child is different, we have to make different assessments based on then and their personalities. and then of course we are letting them go, which in itself is emotional for us. I cant yet imagine doing it with my youngest. that will be very surreal. Thanks for bringing your insight from many children to The Guilt Free Guide. Kirsten

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