It's hard to let go, but you have to...
Letting go can be one of the most difficult things a parent has to do.
“I think it’s really hard,” says Supernanny’s expert clinical psychologist Dr Victoria Samuel. “Parenting has two conflicting roles, nurturing, but also supporting a child’s independence and building up his own personality. It can be very painful to go from one to another.”
There’s something so magical about babies and all that unconditional love they lavish upon you can be very powerful. After all, how often are you made to think that you are the most important person in the world? But as an infant grows older, he will start to assert himself more and more. And, as he starts to want to do things on his own - turning up his nose at the clothes you choose or batting away the spoon you try to feed him with - it can almost seem like a rejection.
“Letting go can symbolise not being needed,” says Victoria. “It’s tough, but if you are babying your child too much, you do need to think about making some changes as you don’t want to hold your child back. They – and you – need to learn what they should be capable of doing.”
Becoming a parent can sometimes seem like you’ve opened yourself up to a lifetime of worry and rejection. It starts with the move from baby to toddler-dom, accelerates as your pre-schooler starts school, and doesn’t stop after that! As any parent of a teenager will tell you, letting go and allowing them to do their own thing doesn’t get any easier. Just wait until they leave home…
“Autonomy is essential and inevitable,” says Victoria. “Look at other parents and their children – you can always learn from them. Children have to do things for themselves, and the more you hold them back and do things for them, the more it sends them a message that they’re not capable. That’s quite crushing for their self-confidence.”
Cute little babies don’t last forever, so enjoy them while you can. But remember, the magic doesn’t stop just because they learn to say “no” or tell you that they want to do something themselves. Each stage brings its own fantastic adventure, from learning to talk to learning to read. And as they age, you will both enjoy the ability to have “proper” conversations about things which interest you, from football to music.
Your child needs to grow up, and you need to help him. It’s vital for his self-esteem that he becomes self-sufficient, but it doesn’t mean that your role as a parent has become redundant. You’ll just be needed in a different way.
“Children growing up is normal,” says Victoria. “If you are finding that really hard, then you might benefit from talking things through with a professional, as you need to find out where your motivation for trying to keep them babies is coming from.
“Letting go can be painful, and it can be particularly hard with the youngest, but it’s something you have to do."
Tips for letting go:
- Allow your child to try to do things for himself – even if means making a mess. This may mean spending more time at the table as he tries to feed himself, or him wearing an outfit that you don’t really like. But giving him independence will help in the long run.
- Listen to your child – if you're treating him as a baby, he may well tell you. You need to make sure you take note.
- Don’t hover – let your child know that you're there if needed, but that you’re also giving him the space he needs.