By: Terry A Rifkin L.C.S.W.

All parents go through the dreadful stage of letting go of their children as the latter grows up. This stage is unavoidable. In getting older, as a parent, you tend to want more attention or appreciation. Unfortunately, at around the same time, your children are discovering life and experiences. If a parent does not deal with these changes in the right way, then problems are sure to come up eventually.

As parents, regardless of your desire to keep your children with you forever and of your protective instincts, you should learn to let go of your children and learn to rebuild your own life without your children. Before you can do this, you need to set your children free. If not, this could lead to many problems, such as enmeshment and overprotection.

Enmeshment is when parents insist that the family should stick together. Often, this shows that the parents are not ready for the separation. Although they try to rationalize this desire, the real reason is their own weakness in letting their children go. However, this is important for the good of your children, and enmeshment may lead to feelings of resentment in the children who are not allowed to pursue their own experiences. This will make them feel overprotected and suffocated, which usually leads to rebellion and the need to disobey as a show of independence.

Thus, the first step is recognizing that your role as a parent has changed from one of a coach to a spectator and you have to let the players get to the field and play. You just have to be around to give support and encouragement as well as guidance during the up and down times.

Once you’ve let your children go, it is important that you focus on yourself. Do not let your child go and then call him/her up every hour or so for updates. Give yourself some attention and rebuild your own life. Feeling sad is normal, but don’t let it overcome you. Focus your energy on new interests and hobbies. Try to come up with a list of the things you used to wish you could do but could not because you had children to take care of. Now it is your time. It is the time to do those things you’ve dreamed about before you get too old to act on them and enjoy them.

Enjoy reading books, gardening, traveling, and several other activities. This is important so that you won’t feel like you’ve lost something and you also gain back the part of you that you set aside when your kids came. Getting older can be difficult, but you cannot stop it. But getting older does not mean you have to stop living. It’s just a new chapter in your life.

More often than not, the feeling of sadness and hesitation that come with getting older and letting go are caused by the lack of something to pour one’s energy into. If you get lonely, do not blame it on your children. It is natural for them to grow up; loneliness is caused by your own problems, not by their actions. Rebuild yourself and be happy with the opportunity to focus on yourself again. If you have your own activities, you have a source of inspiration and motivation every day, a sense of purpose that involves you and not your children.

Terry is an author and highly sought out expert on eating disorders, depression and anxiety. She frequently speaks to special groups and businesses in the Southern California area and can be followed on her blog at this link.