My oldest son turned 15 in May. And sometimes I think to myself, "I'm too young to have a kid this age! Heck, I'm even too young to be a mother!" While I still think I'm 22, alas, I am not. (Although I will be in my head forever!)
I know every parents say this, but it's true: they grow up too fast. It seems like yesterday that he was screaming his head off as a colicky newborn baby. And then still screaming his head off as a toddler. I remember thinking, "how long until he goes to kindergarten?!" As you can probably guess, those days were not easy for me. He was not an easy child. And in some ways he's still not (he is a teenager after all!) but in other ways, he's the perfect child. He's an honors student who has over a 4.0 GPA. He doesn't party. He talks to me. He's a really good kid.
But in less than a year, he will have his driver's license. And since he is a pretty responsible kid, I am not too worried. But nonetheless, as a mother, I do have fears. I worry because he can be a bit scatter-brained. While he is practically a genius (he can solve the Rubik's cube in about 10 seconds), his common sense skills are lacking sometimes. He likes to go for long walks, and I always worry that he won't look both ways when he crosses the street because his mind was somewhere else. And now he's going to be driving! There are so many distracted drivers out there to begin with, and I don't want him to become another one.
And in a few years, he will be off to college. It really does blow my mind because as every mother knows, they will always be your baby, no matter how old they get.
As I'm going through this process of letting my kids grow up (and letting go), I thought I would reflect on my experience and share some of the things I have done that have worked for me. And hopefully they'll work for you too.
1. Treat them like an adult, but don't trust them too much.
When I say treat them like an adult, I mean treat them with the same respect as you would any other adult. Sometimes parents like to talk to their kids as if they were idiots - especially younger children. But they are human beings, and we all want to be treated with respect - especially by the people we love. And they're more likely to act like an adult when you treat them this way because many kids live up (or down) to their parents' expectations. However, realize that they are still kids and can do stupid things - so be realistic.
2. Let them gradually have more freedoms.
When my son wanted to start walking around the neighborhood, I was worried. What if someone kidnapped him? What if he got hit by a car? What if he got lost? All sorts of questions like that ran through my head. But you can't lock your kids up and never let them out. You have to continually give them more and more freedoms as time goes on. It's not as easy as it sounds.
3. Keep an open mind.
Many of us tend to be the same kind of parent that ours were. And many of those parents were very rigid with their rules. However, keep in mind that the times are very different now. And also keep in mind that a rule that worked when they were 7 might be a little ridiculous when they are 17. It's okay to keep evolving.
4. Talk to them.
When kids feel like they can talk to their parents, they feel safe and supportive. That doesn't mean that the parents should act like a friend. The best blend is that of a disciplinarian and a friend. Let them know that you will always be there to listen and help them.
5. Let go.
It's one thing to think about letting go (both with rules and emotionally), but it's another to actually do it. You will eventually have to change the guidelines and life rules. When they come home from college on summer break, realize that they have been on their own for a while making their own decisions. So it's important that they know you trust them enough to let them go.
Raising kids is never easy. And it's even more difficult to let them go. I think most parents want to protect their kids as much as possible, but we need to let them turn into responsible adults. Hopefully these tips will help you and your kids along the way!