Your Only Child: Holding On And Letting Go
The day a child prepares to leave home to find his feet in the big world outside is a day every parent looks forward to with equal anticipation and dread.
While in the back of every parent’s mind is the knowledge that one day their fledgling would indeed fly the nest, no parent would be able to think of that day without experiencing moments of pang and sometimes even sorrow. If anything, that ‘happy-sad’ moment is particularly harder on parents of only children.
Having been a “little universe” unto themselves, parents of only children may experience deep pangs of anxiety, sadness and concern when their child flexes his wings to set out into the world. While ‘holding on’ came easy to them, they realize letting go might not be such an easy task after all. As for the only adult, it may indeed be a daunting proposal to step into the world outside leaving behind the loving, protected and secure environment of his home.
Give your child “roots and wings”, says Patricia Nachman in her book “You and Your Only Child”. While roots imply a loving home, a friendly and trusted environment that will make your child confident and secure, wings imply the capacity to explore and experience freedom when the child steps out into the big world. The deeper the roots go, the stronger the wings would grow.
While roots imply the act of “holding on” to your child, wings imply the act of “letting go”. When there is a fine balance between holding on and letting go, when there is an equal pull from both extremes, children benefit from that dynamism and flourish within that golden mid-point.
How to hold on yet learn to let go of your child? How to strike that golden balance between giving them a solid base yet giving them the ability to bravely explore and experience the world? Research states that parents can enable not only their child, but also themselves in a positive manner, wherein the family enjoys not just their times together but also allows for times apart without undergoing extreme separation pangs.
Being one of many
Parents of only children will do well in allowing their child to mix with peers of his age sooner in his life. Apart from helping in making the child connect to other people and situations, the parents themselves will learn to have time apart from the child. Let your child enjoy sleepovers with cousins and friends. If there is a chance for him to have a vacation with a friend or relative and if you are comfortable with the idea and the adults who are offering to take him, permit it. It will be a learning experience for him as much as you.
His room, his space
Learn to respect your child’s personal space from an early age. Often, parents go overboard in decorating their child’s room, not to his taste but to their own. Also, as your child grows, learn to be sensitive to his need for privacy and personal space. This will help you look at your child as a separate individual and not just an extension of yourself. When you as parents learn to set apart your child’s needs and wants, you will also evolve to a position wherein when it is time to leave home, you will adapt to it as a natural course of events in your child’s life.
Have a personal life
Many parents invest their entire energies and emotion on their only child and feel empty and deprived when their one and only leaves home for college or career. While it is only fair that we allow our child to grow on his chosen path, we cannot do it at the cost of our personal happiness. The solution is to nurture a life apart from your child’s. From your child’s early years, learn to engage in activities, cultural or social, which does not include your child. Have hobbies and pastimes that encourage your own special talents and abilities. Build a stable “other life” that will stand you in good stead when your child leaves home.
Invest in the marriage
The marriage must always be important and your relationship as man and wife must get equal priority as your role as parents. When the marriage is strong and stable, the family automatically becomes a happy and stable one.
Many couples invest in their child more than in their relationship. Often the child becomes the binding factor and not each other. This is not a good trend to follow. Nurture your relationship and the child will thrive automatically. Later, when your child grows to be a man with his own family and responsibilities, you will not feel left out or lonely and you will have each other to keep company.