Q&A: Letting go as son leaves the nest

Q: My son is heading to college next month. I’m worried about the challenges he’ll face—challenges to his faith and his moral values, not to mention the practical challenges of living on his own for the first time. How can I “let go”?

A: Your love for your son is touching and inspiring. At the same time, it’s important for you to remember that leaving the nest, going off to college, establishing independence, and learning to deal with the demands of daily life are all normal rites of passage for a young adult. It’s ok to mourn this change of season. A certain degree of sadness and bittersweet emotion are normal. But don’t look at the situation as if you’re “losing” your son. You’re simply letting go of the joys and responsibilities of parenting him under your roof.

Your son has reached a place in his personal development where he must assume increasing responsibility for his own actions. It’s up to him to decide how he’s going to respond to the challenges he’ll face at college. This is the moment for which you’ve been preparing him ever since you brought him home from the hospital. At some point, he has to pass beyond your control and discover what it means to be accountable to himself.

The most important message you can send your son as he goes off to college is, “I believe in you. You have what it takes to be successful!” A boy needs to hear this from his parents. Then, show him through your behaviours that you believe in him. Don’t jump in too quickly to give advice. Allow him to fail. Don’t call to remind him to study, and so on.

Your relationship with your son will never again be the way it was when he was younger. But this process of letting go—of “giving him wings”—can actually result in a deeper, more enriching relationship going forward.

© 2018 Focus on the Family.  All rights reserved.  Used by permission.  

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