27 October, 2012

It's hard to let go, isn't it, parents?

There’s a lot to think about as a parent. Children starting secondary school, for example. This process has many implications. Not only the obvious ones of having to get used to an unfamiliar environment, needing to buy a new set of uniform, etc., but also much broader issues of freedom and independence. After all, when you’ve spent the past seven years accompanying your children to and from primary school, you can’t suddenly, on the first day of their secondary school careers, expect them to make their own way there. They need some kind of practice. They need to know how to cross the road, how to judge the speed of traffic, what to watch out for, what’s safe and what’s not. In short, they need a bit of world knowledge under their belts.

But world knowledge isn’t something that children gain while glued to their parents’ sides. There’s only so much that can be imparted through telling. In the end, being independent – having responsibility for oneself – is the catalyst through which we learn to negotiate the world, successfully and safely.

This kind of learning, though, is (or at least should be) a gradual process. Children need to build up their confidence bit by bit. They might start off by walking to school a little way ahead of their parents, for example, so that there is someone around to keep an eye on their road crossing and to make sure that they arrive safely. Or they might do a bit of shopping in the local supermarket with a parent in the background somewhere, on hand to help out with any issues if necessary.

My own experience has been that, once a child feels ready, they really enjoy becoming independent and taking on responsibility. But they also appreciate a build up; a gradual preparation prior to full-on independence.

It’s also my experience that giving this independence can be incredibly hard for the parent. Relinquishing control, trusting your child with their own safety, is tough when their safety has been your responsibility for so many years.

So you should be able to spot me easily enough. I’ll be the gibbering wreck in the corner having a really hard time letting go....

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