Get Your Own Life! Leave Me Alone!

Have you ever felt like your child just wanted you out of their life? You want to be a good parent and remain involved with them, but they just seem to want to do things independently…on their own. Let’s face it: they want to do things without you! I know one of the main goals of parenting is to raise a child so they can live on their own…without me. Still, we may feel hurt or even jealous when our children start to choose friends over us, “light up” for their peers but look like a curmudgeon old scrooge around us, or proudly inform us, “No, I don’t want you to go…I want to go by myself.” Here are a few tips to help you think about and prepare for those times when you feel your child say, “Get out of my life!”

·         Children of all ages need their own life. They need a life independent from their parent’s life. When a child becomes the sole focus of their parent’s life, they feel too much pressure to perform. They may fear disappointing their parents by not doing “good enough.” This fear of falling short of a parent’s expectation while always under the parent’s watchful eye will limit their exploration and, as a result, their growth. So, parents do their children a great favor by allowing their children to have a life independent of them. In their independent life, children can try different activities and perhaps even fail without feeling as though they have disappointed the watchful eye of their parent. In practical terms, this means letting your children become involved in some activities without you.

·         Parents need a life independent of their children. Let’s face it: our children only live with us for 18-25 years before they move out and start their own families. Hopefully, we will become involved in their new family, but probably not on a daily basis. We need a life of our own—a life that will continue after our children leave for college. We may raise children for even 25 years, but we hope our marriage lasts well beyond that; so we need to maintain our connection with our spouse. Go on date nights and spend romantic weekends together without your children. Keep your connection with your spouse strong. Also, maintain connections with friends and coworkers. Remember to get together with the “guys” or the “ladies” for a night out. Have friends over to your home for a night of games. Go out for dinner with another couple. Whatever you choose to do, keep the connection with your adult friends and family strong. Strive to become the couple in this commercial (with or without the car).

·         Finally, balance your children’s need for increasing independence with your need to know they’re safe. This can prove a difficult balance to attain. We do not want to over-control or micromanage our children’s lives. Helicopter parents interfere with their children’s growing independence. We really are not our children’s best friend—they generally pick a peer to fill that role. At the same time, we don’t want to throw our children to the wolves either. We have to find a balance…a way to maintain a parent-child connection that allows them to grow independent while we increasingly trust God to keep them safe. We teach them safety skills and trust they have learned those lessons.
With these three patterns firmly in place, we can navigate our changing parent-child relationship as our children grow into independent adults. Together, we will learn to negotiate the balance between intruding and participating, nagging and advising, suffocating and remaining involved.

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