Separation is an important part of your child’s development

A common topic among parents is how their child is moving on, going to college, or entering high school or summer camp or kindergarten or even infant child care. These are all big steps and mark the growth of our children. They are good tests to challenge courage, maturity and independence.

Many parents hate these separations, whether for an hour at child care or a semester at college. I believe it is our job as parents to remember to prepare our kids to be in the world without us. Our goals are to guide them to being independent, happy and kind people.

Separation is an inevitable part of this process, and raising a child is a series of separations; from the womb, from the breast, from a school, a house, pet, friend or loved one. In each case, a child must separate herself from one world to be able to move on to another. Each separation is a test from which she will emerge more emotionally mature. Our job is to release our kids gradually, so they can assume autonomy and stand on their own.

Teens break away from their parents naturally, and if they haven’t been encouraged and supported, it can be miserable for the whole family.

We all love having close ties to our kids, and yet if those ties become too exclusive, they can become suffocating. Encouraging independence reflects parents’ selflessness and establishes that their relationship with the child is for the child’s benefit, not their own.

We can only prepare our child for life’s changes, not prevent them. Show him skills he will need in the next phase, whether it is kindergarten or traveling the world. Don’t do things for him, but offer the tools necessary to do it himself: easy shoes to learn to tie or how to fill out the college application.

Challenge your child to become the person he’s capable of. Give him some confidences about entering the new middle school or sports team.

Know when to back off and let go. The answers that really stand out are the ones we learn ourselves, and sometimes not too easily. However, be sure to be there when he really needs you. This becomes the tricky balancing act, individual to every child’s needs.

“Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but are not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness; For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.”

– Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Martha McClellan has been an early childhood educator, director and administrator for 32 years. She currently is consulting with and supporting early-care providers. Reach her at mmm@bresnan.net.