“Send your kids to a local college so they will marry locally and stay close to home.” This was the advice someone gave to my friend whose daughter is a high school senior. I know this mom was well meaning. Hey, who doesn’t want her kids close? I confess I can slip into a jealous moment when I see my friends and their adult children and grandkids doing life together—going to church, weekly dinners, going to events, everyone home for every holiday and birthday, or just hanging out.
And, yes, one of my daughters and her family live close and we thoroughly enjoy doing life with them. But how wonderful would it be to have all the kids close!
And if the kids’ lives kept them close, I would love it. But not at the expense of them living their dreams.
All of our kids (and that includes our son-in-laws) have dreams and jobs that will take them and keep them away from where Gene and I live. And we couldn’t be happier for them. We want them to do and be all God put in them. Our job is to support and encourage them in their adventures, and that starts with releasing them physically and emotionally.
Begin to age appropriately release your kids when they are young—even infants. When our grandson was an infant, our daughter read a book that taught that an infant’s schedule should be eat, play, sleep.* This requires that the baby learns to fall asleep on his own and not be put to sleep with a bottle or nursing. It worked really well for Kelsey and Harvey. Harvey is now twenty months old. At nap time there is no fussing on his part. Mommy lays him in his crib and he goes to sleep. She has released him to put himself to sleep separate from her.
Part of the process of releasing is teaching them responsibility—to take care of themselves and their little world—make their beds, personal hygiene, clothes to the hamper, pick up toys, etc. They learn they can do important things on their own—separate from you**.
As your child grows allow them their own adventures—summer camp, mission trips, etc. Let them know you are excited for their adventures and you support them.
Releasing is not always fun for the kids. We must also release them to experience the consequences of their actions or decisions. In my book, Love No Matter What: When Your Kids Make Decisions You Don’t Agree With, I tell the story of Kerry earning a speeding ticket. She paid the fine from her hard-earned babysitting money. At the courthouse there was a teen boy in line ahead of us. His dad paid the fine for him. Which teen learned a lesson that day? Actually, both did. The teen boy learned that when I mess up Dad cleans up for me. Kerry learned that when she messes up, she is responsible for the consequences. It was a valuable lesson that was not wasted on her.
Finally when your child turns eighteen, release them to pursue the life they dream of—whether that be college, the military, a job, marriage, etc.
By releasing our kids to be autonomous, we take the chance they will live far from us. But by trying to physically hold on to our kids, we risk losing relationship with them. We become an obstacle for them to overcome. They will live far from us emotionally even if we manage to keep them close physically.
When Katie was going through a rebellious phase many years ago, the image came to me that our relationship was like a rubber band. I put stress on the relationship by making everything an issue, thus drawing the rubber band more taunt. As a result when Katie left home, she would go far because of the tension I put our relationship. When I realized my mistake I let the rubber band hang loosely by putting our relationship before all my rules. Then when she left home she stayed connected to us at the heart even through difficult seasons in her life. We now enjoy a wonderful relationship.***
Moms and dads, our kids want to be in a fulfilling relationship with us. But that can only happen when we are the emotionally healthy parents**** who do their best to bless their kids and champion them to be the people God made them to be. Part of that process may be messy. They will make poor decisions and mistakes. But God uses it all for their good and His glory—just like He has in our lives.
This Easter Sunday we will celebrate with Kelsey and her family for a while before they head to the other grandparents’ home. I will send cards and little gifts to the other kids to say, “We love you.” And that is all good.
If you struggle with releasing your kids in any fashion, talk to God about it. Your hesitancy to release them says you don’t trust God—to take care of your kids and/or to fill the empty in your heart.
How are you doing in your journey with God to trust Him with your kids and age appropriately release them? I’d love to hear from you.
*Baby Wise, Robert Buckman and Gary Ezzo.
**For more help on age appropriately releasing your child, read my book, Queen Mom: A Royal Plan for Restoring Order in Your Home.
***For more help on developing a growing relationship with your child even in the midst of their difficult season (aka rebellion), check out my book, Love No Matter What: When Your Kids Make Decisions You Don’t Agree With.
****Emotionally healthy parents know that they are there for their kids and that their kids are not their to meet the parents emotional needs.
Brenda Garrison is an author and speaker who empowers women with the confidence to live their calling. Brenda is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ministry Leadership with a Concentration in Women’s Ministry at Moody Bible Institute. She and her husband, Gene, are the parents of three young adult daughters and live near Metamora, IL.