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Letting go of kids is hard, but has many rewards


QUESTION: I have found it very hard to turn loose of my kids and face the empty nest. I know I need to release them but it is so difficult. Can you help me?

DR. DOBSON: Humorist Erma Bombeck described this difficult process in terms that were helpful to me. She said the task of raising kids is rather like trying to fly a kite on a day when the wind doesn’t blow. Mom and Dad run down the road pulling the cute little device at the end of a string. It bounces along the ground and shows no inclination of getting off the ground.

Eventually and with much effort, they manage to lift it fifteen feet in the air, but great danger suddenly looms. The kite dives toward electrical lines and twirls near trees. It is a scary moment. Will they ever get it safely on its way? Then, unexpectedly, a gust of wind catches the kite and it sails upward. Mom and Dad feed out line as rapidly as they can.

The kite begins pulling the string, making it difficult to hold on. Inevitably, they reach the end of their line. What should they do now? The kite is demanding more freedom. It wants to go higher. Dad stands on his tiptoes and raises his hand to accommodate the tug. It is now grasped tenuously between his index finger and thumb, held upward toward the sky. Then the moment of release comes. The string slips through his fingers, and the kite soars majestically into God’s beautiful sky.

Mom and Dad stand gazing at their precious “baby” who is now gleaming in the sun, a mere pinpoint of color on the horizon. They are proud of what they’ve done – but sad to realize that their job is finished. It was a labor of love. But where did the years go?

That is where you are today – standing on tiptoes and stretching toward the sky with the end of the string clutched between your fingers. It’s time to let go. And when you do, you’ll find that a new relationship will be born. Your parenting job is almost over. In its place will come a friendship that will have its own rewards.

Remember: The kite is going to break free, one way or the other. It’s best that you release it when the time is right!

QUESTION: You have recommended for many years that parents take their pre-teens away from home for what you called a “Preparing for Adolescence” weekend, during which they talk about the physical and emotional changes about to occur. I’m interested in your comment that kids want this information before they become teenagers, but they won’t want to talk about it after puberty. Do their attitudes really change that much overnight?

DR. DOBSON: As a matter of fact, they do. A study of 1,023 children between 10 and 13 showed that the number who felt uncomfortable talking to their parents about sexuality nearly doubled after puberty occurred. Prior to that, they were very open to instruction and guidance at home. Ninety- three percent of those aged 10-12 felt loved by their parents “all the time,” says Dr. Alvin Poussaint, a psychiatrist at Harvard University. He said, “I think parents may be surprised that children of this age are saying, ‘We want to be close to you. We need you and we’re still afraid. We need the sense of safety and security that you supply.’” The study showed, however, that attitudes changed dramatically when the children reached the eighth grade. Those who had been open to advice the year before were suddenly unwilling to talk to their parents. The window of accessibility had closed. The moral to the story? Invest a little time in the months before puberty to get your children ready for the stresses of adolescence. The effort will pay big dividends.

Dr. Dobson is founder and chairman of the board of the nonprofit organization Focus on the Family, P.O. Box 444, Colorado Springs, CO. 80903; or Questions and answers are excerpted from “The Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide” and “Bringing Up Boys,” both published by Tyndale House. COPYRIGHT 2007 JAMES DOBSON INC.