Kids: Teach Them Well Then Learn to Let Go

Our 4 kids are now either in their teens or in their early 20s. Our oldest boy is spending 6 weeks in Beijing with his schoolmates and teachers. Our oldest girl is on her last year in college and will soon be part of the workforce, either in the Philippines or abroad.

As I ponder on the years that have passed and the prospect of experiencing the “Empty Nest Syndrome” in a decade or even sooner, mixed emotions well up in me. I am happy that they are finding their own place in society and learning to reach deep down in themselves in order to cope with different situations. Another part of me is sad that the babies who were totally dependent on me in their early years are all now growing wings and learning to fly away.

About 4 years ago, this son of ours who is now in Beijing, left on a similar overseas program to Xiamen. First time abroad, first time in China. And he was only in the seventh grade. I remember feeling all anxious about how he would cope being away from us for 6 weeks. He had traveled in the past to the province to be with my in-laws, sometimes spending entire summers there. But he was always with family. That first trip abroad meant no family support. On his return, I saw changes, albeit slight, in our son’s persona. Yes, he had to cope with homesickness, and with weekly laundry chores, and with cultural adjustments. But in the end, he exuded more confidence in himself. When this Beijing program came along this year, he volunteered for it even without any word from us. It was totally his own decision. And he’s now there having a blast.

Two years ago, our youngest son also went to Guangzhou on the same program.  Our 2 girls have traveled too, accompanied and unaccompanied. Our oldest girl even spent one summer in Guangzhou under the auspices of Ateneo’s overseas program. I remember having those same tiny butterflies in my stomach as I waved goodbye to all of them. But all went well and they came home safe and sound with lots of stories to tell.

The learning was not the kids’ alone. I was part of the learning process too. I had to learn to let go.  Every time a child left home, the anxieties of a parent were always with me. My kids will never fully understand this feeling until they become parents themselves. But I have learned to trust more and more in how we raised them as well as in letting them go spread their wings, ready for flight.

Today, hubby called up our son in Beijing and learned he was accompanying another boy to the grocery. I smiled inside, knowing that our son was one of the best companions in a grocery. Why? Because he was hubby’s partner whenever they would go to the grocery. It was partly bonding, partly training.

Here are a few things I am learning in terms of imparting life lessons to them and letting go:

1. Sheltering kids from all pain is more damaging than beneficial – This is our parental instinct – to act as human shields between a painful situation & our kids. But every time we do this, we give up an opportunity to teach them to cope. Yes, we do what we can to protect them from things that endanger life and limb (as a prudent parent should) but there are other painful situations they have to experience and, with our help, cope with. Failing an exam, experiencing bullying, rejection by a friend, losing a game, even getting wounded — all these are opportunities for us to teach them HOW TO FALL AND GET UP.

2. They must be able to clearly distinguish Needs vs Wants – A child that grows up NOT knowing the difference will be a sad kid indeed. When my kids began getting allowances, one thing that I tried to constantly ingrain in them is this: if what you wish to buy is a NEED, we will pay for it; if it is a WANT, you need to save up for it from your allowance. Of course, once in a while we’d indulge them but it was clear that this was the exception rather than the rule.

3. Participation in house chores teaches them to live independently – We live in a society where household help are affordable. While this is a boon, the bane side is that many kids grow up not knowing how to do housework. Is it a surprise then that some unmarried adults continue living with their parents way into their 30s and 40s? Any small thing we ask our children to help with around the house is a life lesson. If they are to grow up and marry, they must be equipped with such skills as well, including knowing how to survive if their help suddenly ups and leaves them in the lurch.

4. Pray for them – Whether it is a prayer for them to pass their subjects, or to come home safely from a trip or party, or just a prayer that they are able to choose good friends and make wise decisions, prayers for our children are so important.

5. Let go and trust that you reared them well – After all is said and done, our kids have to fend for themselves when they are away from us. If we took time during their early childhood to impart the right values and arm them with the proper skills, we can rest assured these will come to fore when they most need these. The time to show we trust them is when they’re not with us. If they feel that we are putting our complete trust in them, almost always they will ensure that this trust does not disappoint.

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rowena Wendy Lei
    Nov 08, 2009 @ 16:09:35

    When the time comes I hope I can let go too.

    @Rowena – I am sure you can. It is a painful process, for sure, but every phase of their growing up brings both joy and pain. Treasure the present moment. 🙂

    Reply

  2. Ria
    Nov 08, 2009 @ 16:18:24

    Very nicely written, Jane. I may not be a parent yet but I think my mom trained me the way you train your kids. At an early age, she already taught me how to go to the market and to run a household. I think now that she sees my successes in life, even though she feels that little tugs of anxiety every now and then, she can rest easy because she knows she did a good job. Letting go is not easy, as it was not for her, but over time, it will get easier. You can rest easy too. From what I read, you’ve got great kids.

    @Ria – Thanks, Ria. I am sure you will make a great mom one day.

    Reply

  3. jencc
    Nov 08, 2009 @ 16:18:58

    I agree with you, Jane! This is such a great post!!! Thanks for sharing!!!

    @Jen – Thanks! 🙂

    Reply

  4. julie
    Nov 09, 2009 @ 08:25:55

    Being a homeschooling mom, letting go is a process I have to undergo soon.

    I think it is time I do this 🙂

    Reply

  5. Lui
    Nov 09, 2009 @ 10:50:32

    I totally agree. Even with five kids, each time I need to let go, the feeling is the same. Occasionally the degree of restlessness differs but the feeling is still there. It becomes even more difficult when the kids do not seem to understand where our anxiety comes from and why we sometimes want some kind of reassurance from them but over the years, they have learned to become more sensitive to how we parents feel. Somehow it is easier now with the younger ones seeing their older siblings telling us where they are and how they are doing, or who they are with and what time they expect to be home. It just comes naturally for them to do the same. We leave the rest to God and pray that they will always be safe. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    @Lui – You’re my idol!!! 🙂

    Reply

  6. Meikah Delid
    Nov 18, 2009 @ 17:01:11

    Very well said, Jane! I know it’s going to be tough when it’s my time to let go. But it’s something that we need to do. I know you’ve raised them well, so you don’t need to worry. As Lui said, “We leave the rest to God and pray that they will always be safe.”

    Reply

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