It’s been said the lesson shows up over and over again unless we learn it. It’s also been said that our children are our greatest teachers. I believe these statements are true because I’ve experienced them, both personally and professionally.
As I coach parents of teenagers I have often said one of the greatest lessons parents can choose to learn is to detach from their child’s outcome.
But, what exactly does this mean?
Detaching from the outcome as a parent means learning to step back, especially and progressively during our children’s adolescence, and become a guide in training them to take on their own lives as opposed to spending a lot of time teaching and lecturing them as we often do during their earlier years.
Adolescence is a period of life to explore, try-on, and work through who they choose to be in the world. Best case scenario it’s done with healthy boundaries that are put in place by loving and supportive parents, ones whose egos don’t get in the way of the child’s journey.
There are a lot of lessons in parenting, but this is [by far] the most challenging, yes?
Let me share with you a personal example from my own parenting journey.
During high school our son, Allen-Michael, began to develop a strong faith and attachment to the Catholic Church, which is the religion we’d brought him up in. His dedication and interest progressed during his college years in the form of taking a year away from his studies to travel the U.S. doing ministry work. Upon his return to college he studied abroad in Rome which allowed him to visit many historical places related to his passion, and what was beginning to feel like his purpose.
When he graduated he went to work for that same national Catholic ministry by supervising two teams of twelve young adults who were leading one day retreats for Catholic middle schoolers around the country. Then Allen-Michael was asked to begin the ministry in Scotland, so he spent a year abroad doing so and traveling to many other countries in the process of that mission.
Now, at twenty-five, Allen-Michael has seen a lot, worked with and encountered many different cultures, and has decided to go into the seminary to become a priest.
There are likely many parents who would be excited and may say this is a wonderful next step in our son’s life. I don’t necessarily feel that way, but learning to detach from the outcome means I understand it’s his life and not mine. And, as the person through which he arrived into the world, my role is to support his choice.
We [parents] can choose to support and encourage our kids along their path in big decisions such as I just mentioned, or in smaller decisions like whether or not to take an accelerated course, pursue a select sport, play a musical instrument, or continue a friendship they struggle with. Our children come into the world with their own lessons they wish to experience.
Or, we can choose to push our own agenda on them in the name of thinking we are the authority in their life.
The best parent/child relationships during their adult years happen when there is a healthy balance between stepping in and letting go. Of expectations, agendas, of being the authority because that’s way we experienced in our own growing up.
They say you teach what you most need to learn and so as I coach other parents in detaching from their child’s outcome, I never take lightly my words and guidance.
Our children come through us, not for us, but for the lessons they reflect to us along their journey, in an effort to grow us up along the way.
May this school year bring your family many opportunities for love, support, and growth…because, ultimately, that’s why we’re here.