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Prepare for Departure

Last week we had our good friends over for dinner and games. They brought their 3 kids with them. This is the story of Zach, their 11 month old son and how “letting go” when kids are young, pays off in ways that are easy to overlook if you don’t know WHAT you are looking for.

Zach is 11 months old. Because he is the 3rd child and because he spends a good amount of time at our house (he splits his time between me and my teens), his experience of the world is one of constant invitations to “participate”. He isn’t babied, he isn’t indulged, he isn’t spoken to like a pet. He is treated like a contributing member of the group. Oh, don’t get me wrong, we relish this cherub cheeked youngster, but there is a difference between goobering all over a yummy “baby” and clinging to the idea of him staying a baby.

As a result of his parents’ approach and his relationship with my family (and other factors as well), he is a relaxed, confident, interested, engaged, curious child. He is comfortable meeting new people and hanging out with a group (without demanding all the attention). He moves through the house with the speed and agility of a professional skateboarder, not a cautious crawler. He is neither clingy nor distant. Already you can sense the balance in his young life. He is preparing for departure, even at 11 months of age.

I have to give kudo’s to his parents who accepted that their children are leaving the nest and never look back. Like every parent, it gets easier with each child, and this is their 3rd. But still, letting go can be difficult.

What I notice about this remarkable 11 month old is the confidence he feels in himself, the people around him and to a certain extent, the world at large. Because I am continually asked to talk about the “letting go” process, it’s important that I look at it from all angles. It’s easy for me to talk about it now that my own kids are grown, but what parents are looking for is an inside view of what it looks like to “let go” when children are young. They want to know what the benefits are when they embrace both the idea and the process of kids growing up – out and beyond us when they are YOUNG.

Zach is a great case study. He is young. What does it look like to start letting go of a child who so recently arrived? Here are a few things I have observed over the last several weeks that might help parents better understand not only the reality, but the benefits to letting go intentionally.

  • Contain your excitement when your child accomplishes new tasks and skills. Instead, encourage the first few times and then move on to a new task. Keep encouraging and moving forward.
  • Let your children know you are available to help, show them what to do and then leave them alone to try, try, and try again. After several attempts are made, go back in for more training- if necessary.
  • Walk away when they need space to fail – sing a song, look away and start a conversation or be quiet (this one can be painful but worth it). Letting go means allowing children to learn about their thresholds, how to deal with frustration and how to recover all on their own. Empowering.
  • Have Faith. Know in your heart, that they can do ANYTHING they put their minds to, even if they fail the first few 100 times. Keep “seeing” your children successful and soon enough, they will be.

Here are a few words from Kathy herself: “I recommend working on self skills between 1 and 3 years. The trick is “to stay sane while you are doing it. The benefit is that you are working yourself out of a job and working them into self-esteem – something most of wish we had more of. When things get out of balance or the routine has changed remember to look at your children as if they are asking “How do I belong in this family” then if you still can’t move past that call Vicki for a coaching session.”

Letting Go is a natural process. One that can be enjoyed and even savored by loving and committed parents. Letting go doesn’t mean throwing our kids into adulthood, it means providing an environment where they are engaged in all the yummy-ness the world has to offer them.

Thanks for sharing Kathy and Steve. You are truly an inspiration.

3 Comments

  • Slawebb 13 months ago Reply

    Last week, while DNSN, Anika asked if I would make some food for her. I told her she could do it. She said she didn’t know how. Instead of telling her that I knew she could and go do her best, I asked her if I could teacher her how. This week she has been coming to me asking if I will teach her to do this or that. Mostly it’s making stuff in the kitchen, it’s a start. Obviously this is where she wants her learning to happen right now. She may not be interested in learning or doing other things that I think are important, but she’s asking to learn and I celebrate that! My theme for the year is “Take Time for Training.” There are things that my kids know how to do. I know they do because I’ve seen them do it. And yet, they continually are asking for help to do stuff, or if I’ll do it for them. So this year, instead of saying, “No, you can do it!” I’m saying yes and them teaching them how to do it. Because I think they are doing it to engage me, to get a little attention, and this way I am doing both training and interacting with them.

  • Debby 13 months ago Reply

    Slawebb – I am also coming to this approach – I like your analysis!

  • Megan Kajitani 13 months ago Reply

    Oh, thanks for this! We’ve been really stuck with our 4yo on this stuff. Doing better w/ the 1yo already. Seeing how it pays to start from the start!! I’m going to try the teaching rather than the “you can do it,” which is also feeling a bit forced…

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