The key is to first LET GO!

Yesterday I dropped my college-aged daughter off at the airport for overseas travel. For the third time in the past year. Each time, my heart alternately leaps with excitement and trepidation.

We got the message in the middle of the night: Yes, she had arrived in London safely, ready to begin a quarter study abroad at Oxford. Whew. It’s not as if I expected anything different. Still, every time I say goodbye to people I love, I mentally mark it. We never know what will happen tomorrow.

The Flow of Our Lives

I close my eyes. It seems just yesterday that little girl was taking her first steps across our floor. Or reading her first full story. (“Mommy, mommy, I…I…I did it! I read it all by myself!” she exclaimed, hyperventilating. She was four.) Or going to her first dance. Or leading her high school mock trial team to 6th place at State. Or waltzing across the high school graduation stage.

She’s been at university for three years. I’m now used to her and her older brother being more away from us than being under our roof. Still, I still get those twinges of nostalgia, vivid memories running over me like cool water from a shower head.

But I need to let go. Release her like a butterfly. She’s an adult and I’m so proud of the woman she’s become. She’s exploring the world (already in six countries without me). And, without question, that’s the type of child we’ve sought to raise.

What Lessons am I Learning Along The Way?

So, what am I learning with this “art” of letting go? (Besides the fact it can be hard. That’s a given!)

(1) Be intentional & reaffirm your unquestionable love and support.

Every time you get stretches of time together, reaffirm this to your emerging adult child. Don’t just say it, but show it. Dial down your schedule to make time with him/her. It’s an intentional act.

This time I could show my love to her by taking her out to get the supplies she needed before she left (and, ahem, paying). It also meant taking walks, getting coffee/tea and meals together, giving back rubs and other nice things.

The farewell.

(2) Be enthusiastic about your child’s upcoming adventure. But with good measure.

I’m thrilled about the adventure ahead for my daughter. But I must keep in mind – it’s her life, not mine.

Falling into patterns of unhealthy vicarious living causes tension in the parent–adult child relationship. I know because I grew up with some of that. I don’t want to replicate it.

It’s so important to give our young adult kids space to discover their own path. To not “hover.”

If and when they need you, you’ll know.

(3) Be the learner in your young adult child’s life.

At some point, we must recognize we no longer carry the primary “teacher” role. Shifting to more of a learner mentality allows conversation to be more free flowing. As we seek to learn from them, it elevates them and then can make them more responsive to what you have to say. This takes time and maturity, of course. But this approach pays off long term, for sure. We are seeing that to be the case.

I sought to practice these three approaches during the 10 days my daughter was home with us over spring break, before she left for this last journey. I wasn’t perfect with it all, but I do feel the last two times she’s been home, we’ve enjoyed some sweet moments together.

These principles can apply at any stage in many different relationships, actually. I hope you might find them somehow useful, too.

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