When Kids Fly The Nest

This week a listener, Angela, sent us a message…

“My daughter is in her second year at university and I miss her terribly. I realise I gave her the wings to fly and I want her to use them but it’s hard sometimes. I am better this year as I have done it once already but a podcast would be helpful as I find when we take her back to uni we are a bit flat but then get over it with work keeping us busy but then about 4 weeks after she has left I am jumping in the car to go and visit her as I miss her too much to wait longer than that. I find though that each time I have to say goodbye instead of getting easier it gets harder.”

This is normal, yet mainly for women. We often seek to understand the difference between men and women. Well, one difference is that a man’s life can be more constant, where as a women’s life changes at rites of passage. Women get married and change their name, they have children, the last child is born, the last child goes to school, the last child leaves school, the last child leaves home.

The majority of people identify themselves by what they do, not by who they are. How do you answer the question “who are you?” For many women the role of mother is a life-filling task. When the last child leaves many women feel crisis, often termed “empty nest syndrome”. I see many women as clients who are dealing with re-discovering themselves or maybe even discovering themselves for the first time.

I also deal with women who have hung onto their children for fear of being alone. I also see children who have been over parented and find themselves unable to be fully functioning adults. A crisis that can become extreme with the death of the dominating parent. The bottom line is that when we over parent we stunt the development of our kids by wanting them always with us.

In ‘The Prophet’ Kahlil Gibran writes…

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but 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.

Sting sung, “if you love someone set them free”. This is never more true that when we look at our children. To allow our children to grow and develop we need to set them free from our own needs, fears and constraints.

Looking at attachment theory, by John Bowlby, we identify that those people who have a fearful attachment with others, and therefore fear letting their children go, probably have damaged attachment issues themselves. In most cases such people need therapy to resolve their own attachment issues from their childhood.

So, think about it, is there anyone that you are holding back, stunting or over parenting? Remember if you love someone set them free!

Take care and be happy

Sean x