Letting go of your teen should not be so hard, right? After all, they can seem pretty self-sufficient. Many parents I’ve talked with bemoan the fact that their teen spends way too much time in their room or on their phone or they are barely at home.
Parents may think that because their teens seem so independent, they have done a sufficient job of letting go of their children. And although it’s true that your child may be doing a lot on their own, there are some very subtle–or maybe not so subtle- ways that you may still be hanging on too tightly. If you want your 18-year-old to be ready to go off on their own after high school, then here are some specific ways that you should be letting go of your teen.
Let go by listening.
Part of letting go means letting your kids do the talking without you critiquing them. Let them express their thoughts and opinions without your corrections. You will get a chance to share your thoughts, but not before you’ve heard them out.
Part of letting go for parents is the realization that you cannot fix your kids with your words. As a word person and communicator, I was always trying to do this. I figured if I just said this or that, or told them this example or that story, that I could help them see things correctly. There is a time and a place to do that, of course, but understand that just because you’ve said it does not mean that it will “fix” them.
So as parents, you must let go of the need to always be talking and be more quick to listen. The more you listen openly, the more likely they are to continue talking. So in the act of letting go by listening, you could very well reap the reward of strengthening your connection with them. Not as a child who needs you for everything, but as a young adult, and eventually a full adult who values your thoughts and opinions.
Let go by letting them manage their time and money.
Yes, it will drive you crazy when they want to spend way too much on a pair of shoes or when they wait until the last minute to get their homework done. But if you’ve taught them to live with the consequences of their choices, then you must let them do just that.
If you’ve given your teen a clothing budget or even if they earn their own money, let them spend it as they wish. My kids quickly learned that they’d get much more bang for their buck if they looked for bargains and shopped wisely.
Your teen also has a time budget; it’s called 24 hours a day and they should be managing it on their own. If they stay up too late, they will be tired the next day, which could affect their grades or even their athletics. If they procrastinate doing their homework, they will either not get it done and suffer the repercussions at school or they will be scrambling at the last minute.
Even though it’s hard to watch them scramble, let them figure it out.
Let go by not dictating their future.
Perhaps your teen wants to attend trade school instead of college. Maybe they want to be a teacher and you’d rather they went for a higher paying job like an engineer. They might even opt to forego college for a year or so and work as they try to figure out what’s next.
“I only want the best for them,” you say. But who’s to say what “the best” is?
If you’ve done a good job of letting go by listening, then your child will be more likely to come to you to share their thoughts and ask for advice. Even when that happened to me, I was more likely to ask some questions that helped them think it through themselves, rather than tell them what I thought they should do.
I heard from a parent recently whose child was very excited about pursuing a teaching career. Both Dad and Mom had already discouraged the teen from that profession for the simple reason that there was not enough money in it. However, the teen seemed pretty set on wanting to do it and when the dad said to me,”I suppose I shouldn’t try to talk her out of this, should I?” I told him no, he shouldn’t. If this was her passion, she would be happy in it, no matter how much it paid. I come from a family of teachers and I know this to be a fact.
Let go by letting them speak up for themselves.
Between my husband who has coached high school sports for over 30 years and my daughter and her husband who have also coached high school sports, I’ve seen many, many parents who seem to think that their teen cannot speak for themselves.
Recently, I got a text from my daughter, whose husband is coaching jv basketball:
“One thing you guys taught me that I will always pass on: NOT emailing my teachers or coaches when I was older, making ME go talk to them if I had a problem or wanted more playing time. A parent just emailed to ask for more playing time for their basketball player.”
Parents, please do not take the words out of your kids’ mouths. You can coach them about how to talk to their teacher or coach. You can role play with them so they know what they want to say, but let THEM do the talking. I see far too many parents that insist on speaking for their kids and those very same teens will go off to college or the workplace not ready to speak on their own behalf.
Let go by not demanding perfection.
Whether it’s the messy bedroom, less than stellar performance on the ball field, or a C in Math when you feel they should have gotten an A. Let go of perfection and focus on effort.
I was a good student, but there were a few times when I came home with a C in a subject that I was struggling in. My dad used to look at me eye-to-eye and ask if I did my best and if I said yes, he would say, “That’s good enough for me.”
Demanding perfection from your teens will cause them to pull away from you and shut you out. Choose instead to offer your support and encouragement for the effort they’ve put in.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “if you love someone, let them go and they will eventually come back.” There’s a lot of truth to that when it comes to raising teens. My husband and I strived to let go of our teens and young adults and the result is that today we have adults in their 20s and 30s who value our friendship and influence.
If you are struggling with letting go, schedule a free intro call here.